I don’t remember my first run or even my first race. I can’t pinpoint exactly when running became my sport, but I know it started around 11 or 12. During my early childhood I dabbled in dance, gymnastics, and baton. I was never exceptional at any of these sports, but I loved being active. My mom owned an aerobics studio, and I loved taking her classes. The adults around me were exhausted, but I was always having a blast. Due to a desire to add self-defense to her class schedule, my mom began training in martial arts. Before we knew it, the aerobics studio was sold, and my mom was on her way to mastering the art of Tang Soo Do (which she know teaches at her own school). A few months later, it became a family affair and after a brief period of unease, karate became a way of life. It challenged me, it gave me confidence, it made me stronger, and, for the first time, I found a sport that I was good at. I was 10 at the time.
After training for about a year or so, we learned about the ‘7-mile run.’ In order to test for black belt, as an endurance challenge, students were required to complete a 7-mile run which took place at a local park. I wasn’t anywhere close to becoming a black belt, but my mom and I started going to the 7-mile runs in support of those completing it as a requirement. Most people ran-walked and kids usually didn’t run the full seven but I remember consistently finishing all seven and then jogging around to cheer on others. I guess this is when I realized I should probably give running a real try.
I began running track in seventh grade and added cross country in eighth. I don’t remember much about those two years other than goofing off with teammates and brief flashbacks of being in a lot of pain during my lengthy 2-mile cross country races. It wasn’t until the following year that the fire was lit.
In ninth grade, I gave the 800 a shot and fell in love. I fell in love with racing and falling to the track after a tough workout. I secretly loved every time we finished a workout and our coach would say “how ‘bout one more.” I loved the challenge of giving everything you had and then being told to give a little more. I found passion in pushing my body past its limits.
My grandfather saw the passion I had for running and invested time in watching me race, keeping track of my PR’s, and bragging to his customers at the deli he owned. I had yet to break any school records or win any major races, but if you knew my grandfather you would have thought I was headed to the Olympics. He passed away the day of one of my biggest races of the season. That was the first race I ran in his honor, and I’ve thought about him during every race I’ve run since. Running gave me a way to remember and honor my grandfather and it’s never stopped giving.
Running never takes more than it gives back.
This has always been one of my favorite running quotes. Over the years, running and I have had our ups and downs but when I look at the big picture, running has given me so much. What started as an after school activity in middle school has led to a lifelong passion. Since middle school, my best friends have always been introduced to me through running. Running has taught me how to challenge myself and believe in myself. Running helped me choose my college where it introduced me to the friends that got me through some of the toughest times in my life. Running has stuck with me even when I hated it, and running continues to allow me to set new goals and expectations for myself.
Running is more than a sport.
I’ve finished with a smile on my face because I accidentally set a half-marathon PR during a long run. I’ve also stopped a mile into a run and cried because life is hard sometimes. Running has introduced me to strangers mid-race that gave me an extra push to a PR. Running has gotten me through breakups, loss of family members, and plenty of other life disappointments. Heading out for a run after a stressful day is the best way I know how to put things into perspective; it always forces me to appreciate the gift that running is.
Running is the greatest teacher I’ve ever had and I don’t think it will ever stop teaching.
I know running isn’t for everyone but to me running is the best gift I never asked for. When people ask me how I go out and run everyday, I don’t know what to tell them. For me, running isn’t a chore or a way to stay in shape. Running is my outlet. Running is time for myself.
If it weren’t for running I wouldn’t be writing this blog for the Lane 9 Project right now. I’m not sure I would be writing at all. If I never began running I probably wouldn’t live in the same city, have the same friends, even know the people I know. Without running I wouldn’t know I want to dedicate my life to helping active women overcome the female athlete triad, and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to co-found a project that I’m passionate about at such a young age.
I don’t think I would have a bad life if I never started running, but I certainly wouldn’t have this life. If I never began running, I truly believe I’d always be searching for a missing piece of myself that I forgot to pick up along the way.
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