Ever since high school, running has always been a huge part of my life. Junior year was when my love affair with running began. I’ll never forget the devastation I felt when I found out I didn’t make the volleyball team. I had moved to Pennsylvania Sophomore year and was looking forward to another season on the team. Even with a year under my belt, I still didn’t feel like I truly fit in and the new high school. It was when I was playing sports that I felt most at
peace with myself. Now that was being taken away from me as I saw my high school volleyball dreams crashing down before my eyes. I didn’t understand why, but who was I to argue as it was the dream squad of volleyball players that had been a team since middle school and I was just the awkward new kid. Instead of beating myself up about it, I showed up to cross country practice the next day and approached the coach in my typical shy and timid fashion. I already knew her since I had been a part of the track team the prior year, but I knew nothing about what it took to be part of the cross country team. I’ll never forget how I felt as I mumbled, “Am I still able to join the cross country team?”. With heavy sarcasm she replied, “no, you can’t” but she couldn’t help but smile and followed up with a welcoming “of course you can!” I thought that the hard part was over, but little did I know the work that was ahead of me. I had run the mile and 800m in track, but never had I competed in 5k races before this. Grueling track workouts, hills, and long runs left me exhausted most days, but I didn’t see myself giving up. As the weeks continued, I felt myself becoming stronger and I looked forward to those smelly muddy busrides home from Ridley Park with my teammates. We all felt each others’ pain and spent the time talking and laughing just getting to know each other. There were those practices where we split off into groups and went on our own little adventure runs through the trails. Race days were always a challenge but I had never felt so much support before as I did from my teammates. As we fought through those 3.1 miles, we knew that we were all in it together even though we crossed the finish line separately. I think it was in those moments where I truly discovered the joy of running and races. Whether you’re leading the pack and running a sub-20 minute 5k or you’re just pushing to break 30 minutes, everyone is working hard and pushing themselves to their limit. While your legs and feetcan take you so far, running is a mental sport above all else. It’s the constant battle where part of you is saying it hurts and you’re tired and you need to stop, but you need to push to overcome and succeed. While those high school days are far behind me, I realized that this love of running would only get better as I took it to the next level.
At 23 years old, I had since graduated from college and started a job in New Hampshire and felt that itch to race coming back. Sure, I had run 5ks here and there and my first half marathon the previous year, but I found myself wanting more. I wanted to feel all the emotions that I had felt at my very first cross country practice. I wanted to feel challenged, determined and know that the goal would be so huge that maybe it would even leave me just a little bit scared. I knew it was time for 26.2 miles…a full marathon. I signed up for the Vermont City Maraton in Burlington, Vermont and started a 16-week training plan. Since the marathon was in May, I started off training at the tail end of winter in New England and tried to take it day by day. With each workout I found myself becoming stronger and couldn’t believe the mileage I was tackling each week. Finally, it was race day and my nerves were taking over. All I wanted to do was finish and told myself that I needed to make it across that finish line no matter what.
Suddenly, the gun went off and 26.2 miles stood between me and my goal. The first half seemed to fly by as I ran with ease and was left energized by the supportive fans on the sidelines. I remember closing my eyes and thinking back to high school cross country and my teammates who had become like a family to me and my coach cheering me on as I pushed through the miles. Sure the miles were tough but I continued to push even through the 40 degree weather and freezing rain. It was at mile 17 when I heard my body telling me “Can we walk for a moment?”, “You should stop!”, and “Just take a break and sit down” and I needed to drown out all of those voices. I remember seeing the 4 hour pacer in sight and closing in on them as I reached the final .2 miles (the longest .2 miles ever might I add). As I stared at the finish, the runners high was as real as it had ever been to me and I crossed over it. Tears began to fill my eyes. There I stood. Finally. A marathoner.