Today we had a recovery run, and I was going 10 miles. The people I ran with turned around after 3, so I had a lot of time to myself to think. I don’t usually think about a whole lot when I run; I just kind of shut my mind off to the zen of my feet hitting the ground back and forth as my breathing keeps pace. Today for some reason my mind started wandering into deeper thoughts than it usually does.
I was thinking about how it’s my senior year and that this is the last season of cross country I’ll run competitively. Then I started thinking about how different running is for me than it was 5 years ago. 5 years ago, I was in the middle of my junior cross country season which was probably my weakest season of competition.
At the time, I was going through a lot of mental struggles that I just kind of kept to myself. I had some serious self-esteem issues, which, to those who knew me in high school might sound pretty surprising. I was excelling in a lot of different things that I was involved in, but in all honesty, it was all just me trying to compensate for the fact that I never felt good enough.
In cross country that year, I just had no drive. No motivation. I hated every day of practice, and even meets weren’t fun. I felt like the only reason I wanted to do well was because I had expectations from other people to do well.
When I started track in middle school, I was running hard because I was good at it, and it was fun to be good. But somewhere along the way, my goals changed and were largely shaped around what I thought people expected of me. If I thought people were counting on me to run some time, I would do my best to not let them down. It was never something I wanted for myself. I was a people-pleaser to a disgusting degree and it was slowly eating away at me.
By the end of my junior cross country season, I was burned out. I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to run in college, and almost decided to quit running in high school too. Running just wasn’t fun, so what was the point?
That winter we had a really successful season of basketball, which ended in a post season run that just fell short of being state champions. I wasn’t a star player, or even a starter, but I was able to contribute some. I had a lot of fun that season. It was exciting to be that close to winning a state championship, and for the first time, that was something that I wanted for myself.
Something changed in me after that basketball season, and I still can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe being so close to a state championship made me hungry like I had never been before. Maybe being a role player made me realize that I was more of a runner than a basketball player. Whatever it was, it made me want to be good — no, the best — at running.
The problem still remained though: I hated running. I believe that to be great at something, you have to love every part of it. If you grit your teeth and suffer for every second that you gain, you don’t really want to be a good runner. I wanted to be successful, but I didn’t want to be good at running. Being good at running takes thousands and thousands of miles, and I hated the miles. I truly had a gift from God in the way I could run, but more often than not, it felt more like a curse. I was doomed to run because I was good at it.
I knew that if I truly wanted to get better at running, I would need to love all of it. So I prayed.
I still remember it clearly, even though I haven’t though about it often these last 5 years. The night before our first track practice, I drove over to the track. I walked over to the stands, sat down, bowed my head, and got emotional before I could even get a word out. I thanked God for the gift He gave me, and apologized for taking it for granted. Then I asked that He would help me learn to love running.
I definitely didn’t undergo an instant change, but it was enough to keep me going much stronger than I had been through the rest of my high school career. I even decided to give running in college a shot.
Since I’ve been in college, I’ve learned so much more about myself, running, and success in general. I’ve learned to appreciate the daily grind, the tough workouts, the highs, the lows, and every chance to leave it all out there in competition. More than anything though, I’ve learned that the beauty of being great at something doesn’t come from the end product. It comes from the experience you had every step of the way.
“It’s not about how fast I get there. It’s not about what’s waiting on the other side. It’s The Climb.”
And now today as I was finishing my 10 mile run alone, I felt as in love with running as I ever have. These last 5 years I’ve learned through running to appreciate where I am rather than what I could be. Today as I remembered my prayer from 5 years ago and how broken I was at the time, I realized that God had not only answered my prayer, but in doing so fixed more than I had ever hoped for.