Four years ago there stood a tall, gawky girl with long frizzy curls and a mouth full of braces. Wearing a cotton t-shirt, an old pair of tennis shoes, and not knowing what to expect, she was waiting to go on her first run. One that would change her life from then on out …
That morning she was meeting with a family friend that helped coach track and field at one of the local high schools. The man she and her parents were meeting was the hurdle coach, and had offered to meet with the family to take the aspiring 7th grader on a run and share a few tips before her first track season. The group met in a small parking lot that connected to a gravel trail following the edge of a small lake. The loop was a mile and a half. A lot longer of a distance than the girl had ever run; soccer practices aside. Shyly leaving her parents’ company to run, the coach and runner dup set off a slow pace along the path. As they ran, the girl listened to the man’s tips on running and keeping her form relaxed. Whatever that meant. He said things about keeping your hands in loose fists, arms by your sides, focusing on an even stride, paying attention to what’s happening around you, watching where your feet going, etc … So many things to remember and so many questions still to ask. All around the scenic lake they ran by walkers, runners, and bikers as each of them went about their own business and enjoyed the morning.
Before she knew it, they were back where they first started. Her parents stood waiting by their car, exclaiming how fast the pair had run around the lake and asking how it had gone. Heart pounding, information fresh in her head, and legs throbbing, the girl gushed over the past 20 minutes and what she’d learned. She had loved every minute and wanted to make another loop. Before leaving, the girl and her parents thanked the man and talked about possibly meeting agin to run or work on hurdles. Running hurdles was the girl’s dream for the upcoming track season and she was determined to be the best. As the group split up and drove away, that scenic loop would later be remembered as the most important mile and a half the girl had ever run …
That gawky, un-coordinated girl went into her first track season with as much as excitement as she’d gained from her first run. Training with other junior high girls and one of the high school hurdlers, she dutifully ran each practice to her best ability and worked on hurdle form. The first meet came and went, the girl placing fourth in the hurdles. For fun, she also ran the mile. The coaches saw her success in the mile and urged her to try to 800m. Running both the mile and the 800m at the next meet, the girl was hooked. She went on to run both at districts, winning the district title in the mile, and setting two personal records. A 6:15 in the mile, and a 2:52 in the 800m. Not too shabby for a seventh grader.
If you haven’t guessed, I’m that same girl who four years ago from today, went for her very first run. That was a day that I ran the first of thousands of miles and entered into a whole new lifestyle: that of a runner. Upon mentioning that today was my 4th Run-a-versary to my parents, my mom commented, “Only 4 years? It feel like you’ve been running a lot longer than that!” Looking back on it, 4 years is a long time … and yet, hasn’t felt long at all. So much of my life revolves around running now that I couldn’t imagine life without my daily endorphins or lacing up my muddy shoes, going on each run and enjoying it as much as I did on that first mile and a half loop. For better of worse, I’m in for life. Running is as much a part of me and defines who I am as the curly hair on my head and my height of 5’10” that calls me out as “that girl.” Sure running can be painful, time-consuming, boring at times, require a lot of commitment, hard work, and while it doesn’t always pay off right away … for all of that, it’s an activity that (excuse my pun) pays off in the long run. Stick with running for long enough and I guarantee you’ll find more in it than just getting in shape or learning the street names where you run. Trust me. Or if not me, then that un-prepared seventh grader; waiting in the parking lot with her thick cotton socks and goofy smile, learning to run on that mile and a half gravel trail.
Until next time,