What Could Have Been

Playing tennis six hours a day every summer gave me a sock tan for most of my childhood. The bronze on my legs stopped abruptly at the bright white outlines of my socks and shorts, which lasted even through Chicago winters until well into my 20s, years after I graduated Stanford, where I played on three NCAA Division I championship teams.

I didn’t get much sleep as a teen. I spent weekends on the road with my parents to tournaments, doing homework on a picnic blanket between matches. I traded a social life for opportunities like joining the Philippine national team and traveling internationally.

Like most serious players, I had a love-hate relationship with the sport. Climbing the infinite ranking ladder and the endless pursuit of results can entice and break you. I poured a lot of myself into a cup that never seemed to fill.

One of my biggest regrets, and something that continues to shape me, is that I never reached my potential with tennis. After years developing an oversized aggressive lefty game, my body finally began to catch up when I turned 18. I had a breakthrough summer after my college freshman year, only to suffer a shoulder injury and a handful of surgeries shortly after, from which I never fully recovered.

After college I was somewhat relieved to stop playing, but also felt something was missing. Since then I’ve branched out into half a dozen sports, searching for that competitive thrill. I’ve been moderately successful, most notably in boxing, winning a Golden Gloves title in 2011. Now I’m a marathoner, trying to make the Olympic “B” standard for the 2020 games, still testing my body’s limits.

I’ve realized a couple things: getting “good” and being happy are separate things. To dominate in a sport, you need to pour everything you have into it. But happiness, I think, requires something else: balance and variety.

I've learned about letting my body do the things it was meant to do. No wonder I got injured - people weren’t made to smack a fuzzy ball back and forth on concrete, for hours a day.

That lesson presented itself again last year, when I got injured leading up to the Boston Marathon. After working with Jeff Moreno, I realized that my form, the way I’ve been running my entire life, was structurally inefficient and the root of my leg pain.

Re-learning how to stand, step and run has been life-changing. I’m aware of my body in a new way, and for the first time I’ve been able to get through a four-month marathon training block without losing time due to injury.

I wish I had learned these fundamentals as a child! How many injuries could I have prevented? What kind of athlete could I have been?

 

Kara Guzman
Writer