Around this time two years ago, a 17-year-old girl decided to go for a run. This was not her first, and it was far from her last. In minor shape, she decided to aim for 2 miles. Not only did she manage to run it, but she ran those miles in a new personal best. Both the distance and pace felt unrealistically good, despite her level of fitness. She decided to keep going, where 2 miles doubled. As Tom Hanks in the movie "Forrest Gump" once said, “I just felt like running.” And that is exactly what that girl did. Throughout the run, something like no other happened. She felt inhuman—radiant, effortless, and floating. She went on to run a total of 10 miles, feeling renewed more than ever afterwards.
That girl was me.
I ran a 5 mile race the very next week, which resulted in yet another personal best. Then a 5K the following week, and I set nearly a two minute personal best. I signed up ahead of time for numerous other races, in hopes of getting to improve myself even more. I allowed my mileage to increase each week, getting higher as I got in better shape. I started eating healthier, in hopes of excelling further and quicker. What once felt so hard in years prior began feeling easier. What once had made me so frustrated made me feel undeniably happier. What once felt so easy to refuse became permissive. The girl who was depressed just a few months ago began to look at the world in a whole new light.
Two months later from the best run of my life, I decided to go out for the cross country team. I was going to be a senior, therefore I only had one season. One season to prove myself to be the best I possibly could. Just prior to the first day of practice, I made a small list of goals for myself that would seem difficult to some: shave four minutes off my personal best and make the varsity seven every week. However, I was willing to do whatever it took. I started by going to the summer workouts, never missing one practice. Three months later, the regular season came, and the boys’ coach told my dad he had no doubt I would do well.
Meets came and went, and I remained in the top seven throughout every meet. I worked hard at every practice so by the time meet days would come, I was ready to run my best and strive for my goals. Although our team of 50 was not the fastest nor state qualifiers, there is something about running that creates a substantial bond between a group of people. For five months, we all were inseparable. Pre-race chains of holding hands on the starting line, post-race hugs, cheering each other on in our races, singing together on long bus rides, sleepovers every weekend, you name it—we did it. Whoever once said “we may not have it all together, but together we have it all” accurately depicted the bond we shared.
All good things come to end, and unfortunately, cross country did. I got my varsity letter and met my goal time; never in my life had I been happier. Blood, sweat, and tears over a sole patch and time I wanted so desperately for months. It was a day to remember for sure, along with the rest of the season. Fall turned into winter, and I ran on my own until I decided to go out for track. Until one day, my world shook and put running to a halt. Literally. I had strained and torn my achilles tendon. I was out for almost three months. Six weeks in a boot and physical therapy were not my cup of tea, but if anything, they taught me even greater determination. Four months after getting cleared by the doctor, I met my long-term goal of running a half marathon.
13.1 miles later, I was greeted by the finish line and a finisher’s metal placed around my neck. Soon after, I was also greeted by hugs from my parents and friends. Although my legs felt weak, my heart was strong from all the contentment it felt. It was yet another day to remember, something I will never forget. But perhaps running is more than the “days to remember.” Running is about the steps that get you to those days. If running alone has taught me anything, it has taught me this sport is full of ups and downs. How we carry ourselves through the ups and downs determines our character and direction. Truth be told, at the end of the day, the choice will always be ours. Make a good one.