The rush of adrenaline that surges through my body anytime the gun goes off before a race always excites and scares me. A race may only last twenty to thirty minutes, but while I’m running, the race takes on a different perspective, whether that’s lasting millions of years or merely five seconds. Something that started out as an easy exercise to get in shape eventually turned into something more. Something that no longer represented a dreaded, exhausting hour on the treadmill, but instead a goal set to see if I could run seven miles in under an hour. By deciding to undergo the extreme pain every cross country runner goes through, it caused me to change dramatically. This new addiction didn’t stem from my brain but instead from my mother’s and it’s with this seed that the love grew all the way to my very first meet. My former quiet, reserved, shy, and addicted self, drastically changed on August 25, 2017, at exactly ten o’clock in the morning. As I woke up that morning, I dressed in my baggy shorts, tightening them as far as I could, and tucked in my loose top.
When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw how thin my arms and legs were, barely any muscle visible like most runners. However, I knew that my new friends wouldn’t comment or insult me but instead encourage and support me during my first race. I quickly ate a light breakfast and gathered my heavy bags for the meet, getting ready to head to school. I walked out the front door with the voices of my parents following me out. My mom made sure to shout out good luck and my dad quietly told me he would see me there. Before I had even started my very first practice for cross country, it seemed almost as if my dad didn’t want me to try the new sport. My first love for a sport was softball as a pitcher, not cross country and running. After puberty hit, my arms and legs became longer and my weight seemed to plummet.
As my dad forced me to take a break from softball, I felt my love for softball wither away and my new love for running grow. While I sat in the car driving to school, I felt my dad’s support was fake, almost like something he felt he had to do. I could sense his negativity and doubts with me running and that the expectancy of me quitting was after one year.Finally I arrived at school, my stomach full of butterflies and slowly starting to regret eating breakfast. I entered the school, going straight to the locker room to finish getting dressed and ready. It was only the second day of school and I wouldn’t be present, but it was vital to leave right at 8:30, so we could have an appropriate amount of time to warm up and familiarize ourselves with the course. As I entered the locker room, my straight face broke out into a grin as I spotted my new running buddies. We laughed and shared our jittery feelings together as we loaded the bus.
Still being new to the team, I felt shy and quiet as I listened to my friends tell stories of past events and races. They calmed my nerves and pumped me up for the newest challenge I was about to face. Upon arriving at the course, we loaded off and my mood became even more anxious. The course was a massive, bright green golf course that was full of dew left over from the previous night. Unsure where to go, I trailed behind everyone else and tried having a conversation, but my nerves held my tongue. We sat our possessions down at camp and my friends asked if I wanted to walk through the course with them.
As we started strolling through the course, I felt my nerves lift and my quiet personality open up around them. I began laughing and easing into a state of mind where I told myself that this was going to be easy. If I could run five miles on a treadmill, running three would be a piece of cake. By the time we reached the end of the trail, my legs felt tired and my positivity was no longer present.
A gun was heard in the distance, and we quickly realized that the girl’s varsity had already begun. We rushed to the camp to perform various amounts of warm-ups and stretching. My mind felt on overdrive as I tried focusing on the warm-ups. Would my race be satisfactory? What if I was the last person to cross the finish line? It didn’t matter how many people tried to comfort me or insist that, if anything, running on the treadmill should have prepared me the most. After the girls finished, we congratulated them and asked questions about how the weather felt while they were running and if their were any odd spots on the trail.
We then cheered the boys on, my nerves twisting and churning in my empty stomach. My legs and arms turned to jello and my fingers became jittery. After the boys finished, our coaches gave us encouraging and inspirational words. As the JV girls stood on the line, no one could have guessed how nervous I was. To them, I was completely quiet, calm and reserved, but on the inside, I was a ball of energy that couldn’t control its own actions.As the gun made its appearance, everyone took off. All I can remember is this massive herd of girls running at a speed that seemed impossible to maintain.
As I tried to keep up with them, a girl from my team turned to me and whispered that I could run with her if I wanted. However, I knew that I had something to prove, not only to my teammates, coach, and parents but to myself as well. I took off, trying to settle into an easy pace. I began passing girls and even heard people I didn’t recognize, yelling my name, telling me that I was doing amazing. My coaches yelled at me, surprised at how good I was proving to be. In those minutes that felt like seconds, I finally realized that running was the perfect medicine for me. It provided me with a getaway from life and an occupation to focus on that would do better things for my body.
It helped me let go of any stressful thoughts swirling in my head and look at the world in a different perspective. As I neared the end of the race, my body began to tire, but my brain grew stronger, pushing me to that finish line where I knew my friends would be waiting for me. It was the first time in a sport, or in anything, that I finally had a group of friends that knew how to encourage me and shared the same feelings of exercise and running.As I grabbed a glass of water, my legs shaking beneath my weight, my dad appeared to my right. His look of shock and awe said it all as he explained how he hadn’t realized how good I was and how amazing I had done.
I couldn’t help but feel a little bitter that in order for him to accept my new love, he had to come and watch me perform well. However, I smiled and thanked him as he talked to my coaches about his awe. I listened to them talk before heading back to camp to share the same exciting feelings with everyone else. We walked the course again, cheering on everyone else and laughing as we tried to get rid of the high we were on from racing.
As the meet came to an end and we all boarded the bus, I sat next to my buddies, smiling, and reliving the moment I crossed the finish line. The new accomplishment of running a JV race in cross country was still fresh on my mind. All the way home, I could feel this new excitement bubbling up inside my body.
It replaced the feelings of dread that surfaced whenever I thought of long runs on the treadmill or the strain of pushing myself out the door in the summer heat to run miles because I felt I had to. It replaced the loneliness I felt between some of my other friends of not sharing nor understanding the same interests as me, creating a new and exciting side of me. After returning to the school, I got off the bus and followed everyone up to the wrestling room to do a few stretches. As we said our goodbyes for the day, I smiled at my new friends as we promised to run together soon. My former shy, reserved, and quiet self, took a hit that day. I was forced out of my comfort zone and I was shown things I’d never thought possible.
As I left school that day, my inner self became a little more confident, a little more outgoing, and a little more positive. Obviously the person I have become today didn’t just occur overnight after that one day, but instead, has continued to grow. The more meets I’ve participated in and the more days I’ve spent with these friends, the more my personality has changed for the better.
The surge of adrenaline that courses through my body anytime it’s put to the ultimate test, is the one drug that my body needs. It allows me to sink into a sudden routine of the same forward motion and to thrust my imagination into a new world. As I run around town or on a colorful trail, my confidence receives a boost and gives me an excuse to step away from the world for just a second. Even if I would have simply ignored my mom’s advice and stuck to my own runs, I don’t think I would have learned how to be independent, confident, or simply a content individual. Running filled that void inside me that was empty.
On August 25, 2017, my personality took a hit the moment I stepped on that bus to undergo the pain, suffering, and enjoyment of cross country.