What Running Cross Country In High School Taught Me
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What Running Cross Country In High School Taught Me

It gave me so much more than just sore feet and a permanent sports bra tan.

What Running Cross Country In High School Taught Me
Emma Dionne

Growing up, I was the girl who tried every sport imaginable and only excelled at warming the bench and eating the snacks at half-time. I tried so many in such a short amount of time that I still find stray cleats, shin guards, and the occasional leotard every time I clean out my closet or under my bed. Still, despite my extreme lack of coordination and skill, I was determined to be on a high school sports team. As it turned out, cross country was the only sport with a no-cut policy so I signed myself up without hesitation, having no clue as to what I was getting myself into and how it would change my life.

That first practice, I honestly thought I was dying. The team was going on an easy three mile jog and I couldn't even make it through the warmup. It was a long, slow, and painful process, but over the next few seasons I went from a complete couch potato to being able to run 6 miles without passing out.

It took a while, but I learned that my best isn't going to be amazing, and that's okay.As a runner who was never in the front of the pack or the last one in, all that really mattered was that I ran my best. Whether that was a 20 minute 5k or a 28 minute one, I realized that my family would always be there cheering me on (and taking totally embarrassing photos).

Running cross country taught me to not take no for an answer-- not from my coach, athletic trainer, or more importantly, myself. No matter how much I complained about running, getting injuries and having doubts made me even more determined to push myself harder and to prove everyone wrong.

I've learned that running is a personal journey. I never got to run with the varsity girls, but I was happy with myself every time I reached a goal. I didn't need to run in the summer, but getting myself into a routine and going out for a run with my dad or my brothers was something I needed to do for myself.

I learned that I do my best thinking while running. Just being outside and having somewhere to run to forces me to escape the constant distractions of work, school, and social media. It's sometimes hard to get myself out there, but a run never fails to help me de-stress and process tough decisions.

Joining the cross country team put some amazing people in my life.From team dinners and sleepovers to scavenger hunts and graveyard runs, the girls I met from cross country became some of my closest friends.

Although I still don't see how anyone in their right mind could think running 3.2 miles through the woods on a hot afternoon was fun, I could always look forward to the finish. Jumping in the lake with the girls and knowing I gave the race everything I had made every race worth the struggle.

Cross country tested my limits. From seeing how much pasta and garlic bread I could eat the night before a race, to forcing myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other even when I was seriously contemplating hiding in a porta-potty until the race was over, I learned that no matter how horrible I'm feeling, I can always give more.

Being a part of the cross country team didn't make me an amazing athlete nor did it make me enjoy running. In fact, there was no one more surprised than my coach that I made it all the way to giving a speech at the senior banquet. Cross country did, however, get me from being someone who was awkward and unsure in everything she did, to a college freshman who knows how to push herself and work toward her goals every day.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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