My love of running was slightly delayed, but I believe I was always meant to discover the benefits and true love of the sport. My mother has always been a runner, even ran when she was pregnant with me, up until they advised her that she HAD to stop. When I became a runner, I now knew how hard it is when someone tells you that you can’t run!
I was pushed at a young age into the dance/gymnastics/cheer arena, and that was my passion from 4th grade on through high school. I would go with my mom to the local track and try to run, but I just couldn’t get into it and would get frustrated and wonder how she could just keep going. It seemed boring to me then, and I couldn’t see the benefits. She obviously knew that I couldn’t be forced, and would have to find out about this new sport on my own. This would come to fruition sooner than later.
After being a competitive cheerleader for 3 years, the program was dwindling, and a group of us decided we only wanted to cheer games, so we’d be freed up to try our attempt at track/cross country. And then it happened. After a few Saturday morning group runs with cross country, I felt it. Freedom. Exhilaration. That glorious moment where your body goes into autopilot, and you almost don’t feel like you are exerting much effort. During track season, our coach placed a lot of the cheerleaders in hurdle events, and while I pretty much dreaded every meet, and even walked AROUND a hurdle once, since I knew I wouldn’t clear it (disqualification)…I loved every minute, found a new strength and endurance within me, and made a bunch of new friends. I may have never won a race or set a high school record, but I knew I would have to keep this new running thing around throughout my life.
During my college years and beyond, I was blessed to make such great friends through running. From synchronizing our radio station channels so we could run to the same beat, talking about work or the latest drama on a 10miler, or just enjoying the silence, while still having a warm body going through the same thing you were along the journey….you really get to know someone quickly, if you go on a run with them. These friendships have carried on through time and space, and I cherish those times and having had someone to get me through the tough miles.
The same is true for races. Many are intimidated, but if you register and run, you will see all ages and skill levels, and it’s really NOT about the medals. Yes, it’s great to have personal bests and beat your own times, but in the end you are helping yourself in more ways than one. I have run many a race on my own, but you’re never actually “alone”. This is especially true in longer races (half and full marathons). You are putting your body through SO MUCH, and it’s so great to be part of a “pack” and know that you are not going through this alone. I have chatted up many a stranger along the way, and it’s encouraging not only to have someone else push you along, but to motivate someone else who may be struggling.
The older I get, I find myself using running as a metaphor for life. There are ups and downs, good runs and bad. Sometimes you need a time out and a water break. There are times you will have a partner, and there are times you need to go it alone. There are set-backs, injuries, PRs, and medals….at the end of any run, you still feel accomplished, and that you are a part of something bigger than yourself.
This is why I whole-heartedly support the effort to bring Girls on the Run to the Big Bend. Our girls and young women need this; are craving this, even if they may not know now. There is nothing more that I would wish for the upcoming generations of women, than for them to have SELF esteem and SELF worth. To never put their value in the hands of someone else with how they are seen or judged. I want them to have inner strength, and know they have a light inside them that should never be extinguished, but proudly lit up and shared with the world. While we can’t protect them from harmful experiences in life, we can help them build a foundation upon which they can draw their strength from, when these times come. I look forward to shining the light that is GOTR, and seeing it spread like wild fire.
Running down a dream,