The weekly weather forecast is reading to be a hot one. High’s in the nineties, with humidity levels out the roof. There isn’t a chance of rain. Not even a passing cloud. Just beating sun. While most people are groaning, checking to make sure their air conditioners are prepped, and planning to not be outside for any extended amount of time; all I see is the little sun in the weather forecast telling me that there won’t be any thunderstorms coming our way. I completely look past the fact that New Jersey is going to be seeing some of the hottest weather, and instead am overjoyed that I don’t have to run on the treadmill.
In 4th grade, my gym teacher, who was also the Middle School Cross Country coach, kept trying to scope me out for the rec and Middle School teams. I avoided talking to him to not feel guilted into trying out. Finally after weeks of begging from my Mom, I showed up to the first day of cross country practice in sixth grade to get my uniform, run one practice, and proceed to not show up again all season. I didn’t give it a chance. Like most kids in middle school, I was trying to fit in, and cross country was not a "cool sport”. All the popular girls were on the Soccer or Field Hockey teams. I couldn’t just run. Needless to say, I did nothing and just waited for the basketball and softball seasons to start.
Once seventh grade came around, I gave in and decided to give it a true shot to stay in shape for my other sports teams. It took a while for me to really get into it, but once the awful screaming in my lungs had faded away, there was this feeling of accomplishment that I never felt before upon finishing a workout. Running became my favorite form of working out. In Basketball practice, when we were told we needed to do suicides, I was toeing up the line immediately; excitedly looking to out sprint everyone. In softball, we would practice running and stealing bases and I just kept thinking, ‘alright give it your all and get back to home plate ASAP’. Running to me, honestly had become a competition in every way imaginable. The quote “my sport is every other sport’s punishment” really rang true to me.
I ran through Middle School and most of High School. In my senior year, I wasn’t fond of our new assistant coach and thought I was burnt out. She wasn’t our previous assistant coach we had known and loved, but she was an amazing runner and was trying to qualify for the Olympics. She pushed us to limits I didn’t know were possible. I had the best season of my life that year, but due to the increased training, the top runners got better too. Since I didn’t make the Varsity squad for the end of season races, I felt defeated. I had grown unmotivated because I knew there was no way I would be the top runner on our team. My confidence was shaken and I quit.
In senior year and through college, I really struggled to find myself. I wanted so badly to be someone unique that people looked up to but didn’t have the self-confidence to do it and instead just tried to blend in. Over a weekend in college, my roommate had gone home, and I decided to dust off my running shoes and go for a run. I went through another cycle of running, and ended up training for a marathon. My friends working at the desk would see me come back into the dorm after a run and ask “And how many miles today??” They all thought I was nuts running 26.2 miles for fun, but secretly I loved that reaction, and still do. After I ran my marathon, my body was shot. I didn’t train properly, was riddled with injuries, and had poor nutrition. I was not pleased with my performance at all. IThe years following that race, I had gone through some pretty difficult times personally, and running had become a release for me. It was the one thing that seemed to take me away from the utter crap surrounding me and running was my gateway to healing.
In 2012, I really tried to get back into a training program and wanted to try and challenge my Marathon time. After a week of running, I woke up with bad sciatica and I just tried to push through thinking it was just my muscles retaliating for working out. I didn’t realize the warning signs, like the fact that I had developed foot drop or the pain radiating down my leg. In the middle of the night a few days later, I shot up from a dream and my L5S1 disc went on me. I had no idea what happened in the moment but I knew it was something bad. It was the most excruciatingly painful feeling ever where I couldn’t stand up straight for days, and was packed in icepacks from my back down to my foot. After weeks of doctor and ER visits, a Cortisone shot, an MRI, and X-Rays, I finally got in to see my general doctor she sent me to Physical Therapy. When I went back to her a few months later for a follow up, we discussed activities that I would be able to do again. She told me that I should never run again to reduce the impact on my spine. It felt like all the sound around me blanked out. This was the ONE sport that I truly enjoyed and felt a sense of accomplishment with and now you’re telling me I can’t do it anymore…
I went through a pretty bad bought of anxiety and depressive holes that overtook all my motivation to do anything. After two years of struggling to motivate myself to get back out there and push past the pain and mental blocks, I finally did. I was able to run a Stadium Spartan race with my husband and a few 5K’s, but I wanted more. I wanted to run these big races that I had been dreaming of. I was tired of sitting on the sideline with what felt like a sandwich board that read “injured”.
I finally motivated myself to train for my first half marathon in 2019. While I was training, I began to remember how much I loved getting out there and just running. My anxiety had started to ebb away. My head felt clearer. I felt this sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt in years. The competitive soul in me was reawakening. I spent Friday nights scoping out neighborhoods, parks, and trails for my Saturday morning long run. I finally remembered what got me hooked on running in the first place. I started to remember the summer days we had to run in the rain leading up to the High School cross country season. Going away to Cross Country Camp, completing two-a-day workouts. The winter snowy days we ran staircases in the high school for indoor track practice. When we had to practice sprints and starts down the weight room hallway. The days leading up to an invitational race and we practiced the hills and points of the race that would matter most. I missed the speed work days when I would practice my big sprint finishes, which was my favorite part of a race, not because it was over, but because that’s when I would pick off runners. This insane cheetah like instinct took over and I took out whoever was in front of me.
While I was training for my half, those reminders are what got me back out there everyday. I always loved that feeling flying down the chute, I always felt so strong, even if the race itself sucked. During my half, the last 3 miles was tough. My feet had started to hurt really bad, where I thought I might have stress fractures. I prayed for the next bend to be the last, and when I saw the chute, something ignited in me and I sprinted in. I have no idea where that drive came from, but all the pain and exhaustion disappeared, and that sprint made it all worth it. I finished the race in 2:07. That sprint made all the difference in my eyes and is what will be getting me back out there to push harder for my next one.
Even though running has stepped in and out of my life over the years, it is the one thing that I always know I can do, no matter where I am. I can always just throw on my shoes if I have 20 minutes and just decompress if I’m too stressed out. Running has been the one thing that truly has turned my life around both mentally and physically and I want others to realize what amazing effects it can have on your life, in a physical achievement perspective and for your soul.
Next time someone asks you why you run, sit and think about it. Always look back on what made you start in the first place. Was it a race you wanted to complete? Was it to get in shape? Was it to help with stress? Always go back to why you started, and think about your goal you are trying to achieve. Looking at the trail you are creating, from those very first steps to where you are now, is a huge accomplishment.