Running through Life
I first started running in seventh grade. I didn’t want to do it at first. Why would anyone want to run voluntarily? Soccer was my primary interest. Unfortunately, I was cut from my middle school team. But my friend Colin convinced me to try running to stay in shape. His older brother, Sean, was on the high school team, and Colin was doing it. I decided to give it a shot.
In my seventh grade season, I realized that I was actually really competitive deep down. I wanted to beat my friends that I signed up with, and this drove me at the time. Some of these teammates were Colin and Lucas, who still run with me to this day.
I decided not to try out for soccer again the following year. My teammates drove me to rejoin the cross-country team, and I was again motivated by the goal of being the best runner out of all my friends. My friend Jack, who was the best runner in the school at the time, trained with me every day in the summer. After a successful eighth grade campaign, I decided to commit full-time to running by joining the high school cross-country, winter track, and spring track teams. Jack decided to stop running, since the cartilage in his knees had been worn down and he was always sore. I became the best runner in my grade, and my main motivation remained the same: to beat my teammates, and to maintain the top-dog status.
Over the years, I learned that beating my teammates wasn’t all the mattered. I started realizing this when Matt, who was three years older than me, invited me to an early preseason run at the beginning of the summer. When we started the run, I immediately sprinted to the front of the pack of my older teammates. I thought I could be better than them. Of course, I couldn’t hold this. When my teammates passed me, I expected to get yelled at for sprinting ahead because I thought I was faster than these older kids. Instead, Matt and Joe, my teammates, encouraged me. They made sure that I stayed up on that run, and many more runs after that.
This was just the beginning. Throughout this first year, I met many more kind and accepting upperclassmen. I started falling in love with the sport, not because I was fast, but because everyone I met in this community seemed to be genuinely nice people. Everyone seemed to have a common goal: to make themselves better. Although this seems like a selfish goal, the collaborative nature of the running community in achieving this common goal allows runners of all abilities to empathize and relate with each other. I first noticed this through my teammates, where the fastest runners, Matt and Joe, used to train with the slower kids like Ean, Colin, and I.
The next year, Matt graduated. Joe was now the leader of the team. Four of the five members of the previous year’s varsity team had graduated. Joe made sure that all of the underclassmen were training hard throughout the summer, since we had big shoes to fill now. Ean, who was now a junior, took this training very seriously. By the end of the summer, he was the best runner on the team, even surpassing Joe. By the end of the season, I was a member of the top seven, but barely. Colin and I had cut a lot of runs together that summer, and we paid. In the championship race, my team failed to qualify for the state meet. Perhaps I could’ve helped them if I had trained harder and been the fifth runner. I promised myself that I would never slack again in any of my endeavors in life.
In my junior year, I went full tryhard mode. With Ean as leader, five of us trained intensely throughout the summer, running 60 miles per week, logging all our runs, and cross training. Going into the championship season, we had already won multiple meets, and we were one of the teams predicted to advance to the state meet. Although we tried so hard, we all fell apart that day, and we missed it by one place again, just like last year. My teammates and I were heartbroken. Although we made many more fun memories throughout the rest of the year, none of us really got over that heartbreaking loss.
This year, as the only returning member of last year’s varsity team, I wanted to lead the team to attain the goal that had eluded us for the three years prior. But I had to change my plan when I found out I would have to miss six weeks of training because of a tibial stress reaction. The summer consists of eight weeks of training, and I knew this would hurt my season. This injury was so frustrating because I couldn’t even feel it when I ran, only when I walked or touched it. However, I was determined to come back stronger. I started going to the gym at 5 AM every morning to swim laps. I went back to the pool every afternoon to ‘aquajog’. I incorporated lifting into my schedule to maintain my strength. I diligently logged my training in a journal. I showed up to every practice to encourage my teammates.
Now, with three days until the big race, I’m determined to lead my team to its goal. Although I’ve had a slow start this season, I know that all the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place.
Through these experiences, I’ve realized that although it would be awesome to end my senior year by qualifying for the state meet individually (top ten overall finisher), I’d rather qualify as a team without placing well individually. My motivation to succeed has changed drastically over the years. In the beginning, all I wanted was to be better than my friends. Now, I don’t want to let my team down, and I’ve learned to run for my teammates rather than for myself.