Running isn't something that most people typically associate with anything positive or enjoyable, and maybe you're one of those people. Call me crazy, but I absolutely love it. I ran cross-country and track competitively from elementary school through high school. Though I'm not currently running competitively, I still hit the pavement not because I have to but because I want to. It's so much more than a sport to me and my life would not be the same without those years of running.This might sound a little dramatic, but here's some explanation:

1. #goals

Running taught me how to not only set goals (some even doubtful I could reach) but to also work my hardest to achieve them. There is almost no better feeling than crossing that finish line and realizing that you achieved what you set out to do or beyond. During a race I would sometimes think, "Why do I like doing this again?" but once I crossed that finish line, I remembered exactly why. The temporary pain and exhaustion is so worth it.

2. You realize you can push past limitations.

I was blessed with AMAZING coaches who saw something in me that I couldn't see in myself. I became determined to give both training and races everything I had. I never wanted to think that I could have given more or tried harder; I did my best to leave it all out on the course. Running is such a mental sport as much as physical, maybe even more so. It takes vast mental strength to push past the aches, fatigue, cramps...etc. But it's amazing what you can achieve physically when you are mentally resilient. Never underestimate the power of determination and 110% percent effort.

3. It's really not about how you start, but how you finish.

Don't get me wrong, getting a good start in a race is very significant...I was just never good at getting one. Being built for endurance and not speed, I would usually start out in the back of the pack after the gun went off. I would slowly work my up, find my pace, and settle into a rhythm. I think this is a great life lesson too: it's never too late to pick up the pace and finish strong.

4. The friendships and memories.

Through running cross-country and track, I've made lasting friendships and forever memories. There is something unique about the team camaraderie that forms through running. My teammates really became like family since we experienced many ups and downs with one another and spent much of our time together. High school especially would not have been the same without this sport and my team. The goofy inside jokes, the pep talks and encouraging words, adventures at Six Flags, bonding at "camp" by the salty sea and ocean breeze, and conversations (both meaningful and silly) on long training runs: there is so much more to running than putting one foot in front of the other.

5. Long, stressful day? There's a run for that.

There's nothing like tying up your laces and hitting the trail to clear your mind, release some pent-up frustration, or to process a big decision ahead. I can think so much clearer after going for a run outside and significantly less stressed. And hey, aside from a good pair of shoes, it's free therapy.

6. Carbs, carbs, carbs.

The usual pre-race meal? Pasta, bread, pasta, and bread. And maybe some lettuce with ranch on the side. Pre-race carbo loading is as much an excuse to devour a big plate of noodles and buttery garlic bread as it to fuel those 3.1 miles for the next day's race. Well, at least for me it is!

7. Runner's Lingo

Lactic stackers. PR. Garmin. Brownies (not the delectable dessert unfortunately). Pick-up poles. Killer. With the normal runner's lingo mixed with the team's lingo, we could probably publish our own dictionary. It's almost like talking in code that sounds like nonsense to the average citizen. We also had our mantras to manage pre-race nerves: "The faster you run, the faster you're done." "Run like you stole something." "You can do anything for __ minutes!" That one tended to be more encouraging for any distance under a mile but hey, whatever works to keep that pre-race carbo load from coming back up!

8. And last but not least, the reward.

Like typical athletes, imagining what we would reward ourselves with after a race was an effective motivator. Usually involving In-N-Out. And, getting a run in always makes me feel better about a Ben & Jerry's splurge.

Even if you've tended to have an "I hate running more than anything on the face of this earth" mindset, I'd still encourage you to give a chance. Find a workout buddy, join a running club, sign up for a 5-K. You might be surprised at how fun (fun? yes FUN!) and rewarding it can be. Run on, friends!