In high school, I ran cross country in my sophomore and junior years, and I absolutely loved it. I started running in middle school because I wanted to be just like my older sister, Kirsten. She was so passionate about running, and I wanted to feel that passion and be able to relate. So, in the summer before my junior year, I joined the cross country team at Wiregrass Ranch High School. I had never ran for endurance before; prior to joining the team, I had only run around the neighborhood and chased childhood friends. I was extremely inexperienced.
On my first day, my coached asked me, “You can run four miles, right?” I brushed the notion off like it was nothing, and took off sprinting into the fields. I remember passing a group of girls and thinking that running was so easy. Then, I became short of breath; then, my legs got tired; then, I got a cramp. Then, I stopped running and started walking. And I remember so vividly the humiliating feeling I got when those same girls passed me, going at their same pace.
After a few months of running daily, my personal record time got shorter and shorter. I changed my diet, and didn’t drink soda for an entire year. What started as something I did for my sister transformed into something I did for myself.
In many ways, running was my saving grace. At the end of my eighth grade, my mother remarried and moved my siblings and me from St. Louis, Missouri, to Tampa, Florida. Though some may see this as the best thing in the world, I only saw it as change. Moving across the country gave me a stepfather, step-siblings, a new home, new school, a new life. All of these changes greatly affected me, and the only thing I was in control of was running.
In my junior year of high school, I became involved in other things, like yearbook and AP courses, and somehow, cross country got pushed to the back burner. I eventually quit the team and started working at a restaurant. And I walked away from running, leaving it behind in the dust.
Now, I’m a junior in college, and regret that decision more than ever. I haven’t run consistently since high school, but am finally getting back into it. It’ll be a long way back, but I know that this time, I’ll be doing it for myself.