At 8 years old, when I decided to go to my first cross country practice, I was not a runner. The only sports I had played before then were soccer and field hockey, so running around parks and muddy trails for fun was a foreign concept to me. That was until I started.
I became addicted to running from the moment I stepped foot onto the rocky sidewalk at Seneca Park.
I was surrounded by color: freshly cut green grass, beautiful green trees, and a cloudless sky. After my first elementary school practice, I knew this was the sport I was meant to play.
I had found my first love, running.
From then on, running was the priority. I would get home from school, do homework, go to the park, and run with my cross country team. I was perfectly content. When track season came around in the spring, I had expected I would run distance again, because cross country was distance running. However, my coach told me I had a natural ability for speed. So I was placed in sprints.
I never knew I could fall in love all over again.
I had gotten lucky. I was given the opportunity to run cross country in the fall, and to switch over to running sprints in the spring for track season. I experienced the best of both worlds.
I took running through high school as well, and that is where I truly found my passion for the sport. I met my best friends. These were the girls I saw every single day after school, the ones who knew every part of me. We would run every warmup mile, workout, and cool down mile together. We got breakfast after practice on the weekends, we had endless sleepovers jumping from house to house, and we pushed each other when things got hard. We became each other's soulmates, and I am eternally grateful for that.
I found myself through running.
If I felt the slightest feeling of stress, I would lace up my shoes and head out the door. Pounding the pavement allowed me to clear my head of any worries. I only had to focus on one thing, my favorite thing. Running even saved me from heartbreak. It healed me, mentally and physically, as I pushed through one more mile with my teammates beside me. If I hadn't had that sport all those years ago, I have no idea where I would be now.
Because of running for all these years, I experienced wins and losses. I was humbled. There were good runs and bad runs, but looking back now, every run turned out to be a great one. It shaped who I am today.
Though my days of competing are over, I still run every day. Oftentimes, I reflect on these memories when I'm out running a trail or waiting for yet another stoplight to signal pedestrians to cross the street. I miss these memories, but I am so thankful that they are part of me.
I will continue running, and I will continue to make even more memories. I have 8-year-old Shelby to thank for that.