In the sixth grade, I was nearly forced to run Track and Field. I needed a spring sport to keep me in shape for basketball. At least that’s what I was told.
I literally prayed every day on my way to practice that I wouldn’t pass out that day (I was a dramatic sixth grader, OK). You see, I had played basketball my entire life. Running was often used as a sense of punishment and it was never fun.
So for the next three years, my hatred for running only continued to grow. I was used to short sprints up and down a court, not four laps around an oval.
Yet, over these years I continued to better and my body truly developed into a “runner's build.” I somehow found my spot in High Varsity relays that were making it to the Kentucky State Track and Field Championship each and every year.
As I freshman, I grew an appreciation for running through Cross Country. It wasn’t my best sport, yet, it taught me to channel whatever I was feeling that day into a positive run.
A girl made fun of my homecoming dress: my mile average that day was six seconds faster. My crush was a jerk: I got top five at a big meet that week.
Running became my outlet; my escape from whatever what going on in my life. From anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes every single day, my mind went blank. It was me, my legs, and the pavement.
I remember my first track meet as a freshman. I stepped up, toeing the line at the start of the 800M.
I had always hated this race. Anyone who has any knowledge about the sport knows that the 800M isn’t a sprint, but it isn’t something you can pace. You just have to go.
I looked to my right and as I saw the previous year’s regional champion in this event I said to myself “You’re kicking her butt today.” And I did. Little did I know that single phrase of me telling myself I was going out and I was going to win would set the tone for the next four years.
I liked always being ranked number one in my region, so I did whatever I had to to get there. I was running six days a week, eating healthy, and keeping my head on straight. Each and every week, I thought “don’t worry about the other girls, this is you against the clock.”
Over the next four years, my biggest competitor became more than just a stopwatch: my best friend.
Our rivalry became fun and made training session more bearable. She was my best motivator and I owe so much of my success to her constant push. In addition, the 800M became my one true love — who would’ve ever guessed that.
Running became my passion. It was fun, exciting, and never quite felt like a chore. I always knew in the back of my head that it would be able to open doors for me.
My money spent in elite camps during summers and extra runs on weekends eventually paid off. I was so incredibly grateful to receive offers from schools ranging from NCAA Division I to Division III, to even NAIA schools.
As a senior, I loved running so entirely much that I couldn’t imagine the next chapter in my life without it. Thus, I ended up at Eastern Kentucky University with a spot on one of the most successful teams in the Ohio Valley Conference.
However, it didn’t take me long to realize that running at this level wasn’t what I wanted. I saw running becoming not only a chore but a job. I loved competing more than anything and truly wanted to see how training at this level could better my times. Despite, it was making me hate the one thing I loved the most.
I know so many people from home spoke about how I would never make it running at a Division I school. That’s just simply how it goes in a small town. Yet, I had to make a decision that was going to be the best for me.
Sure, running at such a high level was cool to tell people about, but to me, it meant absolutely nothing if I wasn’t happy. I needed a break from it and I needed to focus on school — it was the one thing that was going to get me somewhere in life anyways.
So I put all the negative comments out of mind and turned the page on that chapter of my life.
Running still is my greatest escape and can make any bad day a good one. I just never truly realized that I didn’t need a school’s name on my chest to enjoy it fully.
Regardless, this whole ordeal taught me how to deal with difficult decisions. It taught me to value to what was best for me, and not what everyone else around me thought was.