Blood trickled down his face. Gravel dug into his wounds. His swollen ankle seemed to be hiding a baseball.
Mark Parrish’s first week of school was tougher than yours.
Friday morning, Aug. 19, the sophomore UF runner rode his racing bicycle down University Avenue on his way to a more challenging area for riding. But there was no bigger challenge than when he was struck by a turning car.
The vehicle was turning into a shopping plaza, but the woman driving never looked to see if there was someone in the bicycle lane. There was nothing for Parrish to do but brace for impact — and hope it wouldn’t affect his season.
“I knew it was going to happen,” Parrish said, “but there was nothing I could do about it, which was the worst part.”
He gathered himself and stood to see what concerned him most at the time — his bike.
“I actually looked down at the bike and said, ‘Ah man! My bike is messed up,’” he said.
His focus quickly shifted when he returned to the Lemerand Athletic Center with his coach, Todd Morgan, to hear his ankle might be broken.
“When someone tells an athlete something might be broken, it’s a really scary thing,” Parrish said.
Morgan was just happy Parrish was OK — at first. Then it hit Parrish: he was “not OK running-wise.”
Finding out Parrish’s injury was a sprain was a relief in some sense, but Morgan still wanted to be cautious.
“He just had to be patient. It had to heal,” Morgan said. “I kept reassuring him he was still fit and the meet that counts were still a long time away.”
It didn’t take long for Parrish to be back at 100 percent, as just a month later he finished seventh overall at the Gators’ home meet. Three weeks later, he led his team with a career-best 8K time. His performance in Wisconsin on Friday earned him co-Southeastern Conference Men’s Runner of the Week honors.
Two weeks of intense rehab, which included pool and bicycle workouts, gave Parrish a reason to be discouraged. But he and Morgan agree that positivity was key to Parrish recovering rapidly.
“As an athlete, you have to be able to face that kind of diversity and challenges,” Parrish said. “And that’s what makes an athlete; it’s not just the guy who can train the best.”
The SEC Championship is his next challenge, but the best part for Parrish: no cars.