The other night I was laying in bed about to go to sleep when I looked up and saw this photo hanging on my wall. This photo may not look like much to you, but to me, it’s pretty significant.
When I was in high school I often floated from activity to activity, friend group to friend group, not paying much mind to what was “cool” or who I “should” talk to. I just followed my heart and tried my best in whatever it was that I took on. Freshman year of high school I started out on the cheerleading squad ..wasn’t for me. The following year, I knew that I wanted to continue with some type of sport to keep myself busy, but mostly because I wanted more to put on my college applications.
Not being particularly skilled or athletic, I chose to join the cross-country team. It was one of the few walk on sports. Running.. anyone can do that, right? Little did I know what this sport entailed.
The first day of practice was ROUGH. I can remember being sent on a one mile warm up with the team. One mile?! I couldn’t even run one block without stopping. I remember gasping for air, feeling my lunch jiggling around in my stomach, and feeling like my legs were going to collapse. No fun. I finished out that season as a mediocre runner but nonetheless, I finished. I actually continued on to run both winter and spring track as well. Something about the atmosphere on the team just kept me going.
As summer rolled around, my coach was thinking ahead towards the cross country season in the fall. He knew the importance of training over the summer and challenged our team to run 500 miles between the end of June and September when cross country practice would start. 500 miles!! Together with a few other teammates, we took on the challenge.
Every day I ran, anywhere from 3 to 14 miles. I remember a handful of days where there was absolutely nothing I wanted to do less than run. There were days when the sun was so strong and the humidity was so high that I had to wake up at 6am to get my runs in. As a 16 year old girl on summer vacation, I can tell you that this was not easy. But, I did it anyway. The camaraderie of my teammates who were aiming for 500 got me through on many days.
By the end of that summer I had completed the 500 miles. I had created close friendships with people I hadn’t known very well before hand. I learned what it meant to be dedicated, to persevere and to push through something no matter how challenging it may be in the moment. I learned what it means to be resilient. I went from dry heaving while running one mile to being varsity co-Captain of the team and running in the county meet.
This photo was captured at that county meet. One of the things I value so much about my coach is his ability to make you feel important, to make you feel inspired and to make you feel like who you are in this world, makes a big difference. In this photo, my coach was telling me how powerful I was, how strong I was, and how proud he was. I went on to run my personal best in this race.
The most important thing I took from my experience running cross country is this:
I can do absolutely anything I set my mind to.
When I think back to this experience now, I recognize it as a pivotal point in my life. The connection I felt to the community of that team and those coaches was above anything else I’ve experienced. I pushed my body physically and mentally everyday and saw the benefit of hard work. I listened to stories from my coach that inspired me to do more, and be better every day, especially when no one else was looking. I think of the 9 mile tempo runs I thought I would never survive, but did.
When I think back to this experience now, it gives me confidence and reassurance that no matter how big or scary something may seem, if it is something I truly want, I can do it.
I can do absolutely anything I set my mind to ..and so can you.