Long Storytime: my running story
I’ve never posted my running story on here because honestly, I’m a little embarrassed about it. It looks different than a lot of people’s running stories, and it has some of my less proud moments in it. I’m posting this here not only for me to look back on, but hopefully to inspire other runners to NEVER GIVE UP even if people are telling you to.
Basically, starting about a year ago, I have been training in my own almost every day. When I started running by myself a year ago it was more out of habit of running than actually training. I didn’t really know what I was doing but I knew I was running. But, since I was irresponsible and was not diligent about contacting the coaches during my senior year of high school (remember how I said not my proudest moments?) I did not make my teams roster last fall (obviously). At this point I knew I wanted to run. I had always known it but I didn’t realize how deeply this urge burned, or how far I was actually willing to go once I figured out what I wanted.
As a super naive baby freshman, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to even get consideration for a D1 team like mine, especially as someone who didn’t contact my coaches until too late (let this be a lesson for all high schoolers…). After months of emailing, I got into contact with the assistant coach, who is amazing and immediately supported me and my goals, however lofty they might’ve seemed to her at the time. She offered me a chance to run a mile time trial with some of the cross country girls with a time goal to be considered for a spot on the team. I ran it on pace for about 2.5 laps, but came through at just over the time goal she set for me. Keep in mind, I still had no idea what college training looked like, and I was relying on my knowledge from my high school running (which was very low mileage relative to college running). I was heart broken and embarrassed in front of all these girls, my idols, and I thought it was over. In my post race gasping, the women’s coach was the first to say to me “good job!” and “it’s not over yet, there’s still indoor meets here in Flagstaff. I want to see you there” and it was then that I resolved to become tougher than ever before for those meets months down the road. I also resolved to not contact any of the coaches until I had better news and better times for them.
The next part of my story sounds like I literally made it up because that’s how perfect it was. I met an elite runner, while running on a trail, who offered to help me train like a collegiate athlete. I was skeptical at first (because I was a baby freshman who obviously knew everything, right?) but I eventually accepted. When he first told me his plan for me I was in shock, I had NEVER done anything like this before. When I started his miles and workouts, I felt brand new to the sport all over again, which was uncomfortable for me. I didn’t like feeling weak and tired, more hungry and fatigued. But workout after workout I ran faster than I ever have. I remember a particular 5 mile tempo workout that I ran in 20 degree weather with ice and snow on the road, that I looked at my splits after and thought “wow, I didn’t know I could actually do that”. It felt like we were Bruce Denton and Quentin Cassidy (though if he knew I was making that comparison he would be mad haha).
When the indoor meets came I was stronger than I had ever been. I was signed up for 3 separate meets, all of which would be in front of the coaches, team, my elite runner “coach”, everyone. My first race was totally a bust. I was in the slow heat. I hadn’t raced in months. But despite the horrible time I got and disappointed reaction from my runner friend, I came away from this race remembering what it’s like to go as fast as you can for a few laps around the track, and I got the itch back. The next race a similar thing happened, I ran the mile, but with the high altitude conversion it was actually a decent time. Similarly, I also came away from this race with new experience and a new perspective. I had just raced with college girls (I’d never done this before). I just beat one of the girls from my team. I just ran what would’ve been a hard fought race run on a FULL SIZE track at an altitude I was actually used to. And it felt EASY. The next race was where it really clicked. I was again in the slow heat, but these were also college girls, and some of them were from my team so I was ready to prove what I could do. The race started, and I was immediately by myself. I passed all the girls with ease and I realized that’s how this race was gonna go: I’d be fighting it out by myself. I came away from this race not only with an altitude converted PR in the mile, (which I had run about 20 seconds slower just a few months before), but also congratulations from girls my team, my school coaches, my elite runner friend, and even people in the crowd. I realize this congratulations may have been a little inflated since my race was the very first to be run in the meet, and I was in a heat much slower than me. However, despite my success, the head coach still denied me a spot.
This was the most frustrating thing. Here I was by myself training day in and day out all alone, and when it came time to show what I could do, I beat a few of his athletes, ran a good time, and showed my grit, and I was still told “NO”. I recognized that my team is very good and I did not “deserve” anything, but this straight rejection was really hard to take. But I had made the decision a long time ago that I wouldn’t give up, so I just didn’t. I kept pushing. I was persistent with my coaches and even showed up unannounced to their office one day.
The school year ended and I went home disappointed with how the year played out. I poured my heart into something and didn’t get the results I wanted. I started looking at other options, other schools I could run at, because if I couldn’t go for my dream in the place I love I would learn to love somewhere else. One last gesture, I emailed my assistant coach about my dilemma, asking more as advice than an ultimatum. And just like that I was on the roster. Really anticlimactic, but it was there and I finally got it.
Right now I am sitting sedentary with a femoral stress fracture. I have 4 more days on crutches and then another 2 weeks (at least) without running. I got an MRI right after I got the email from my coach saying I was on the team. I thought, of course this would happen to me!! Of course it’s right now. But my injury happened because I ran well over my training program mileage in frustration of my situation. I thought if I pushed hard enough in my training something would budge!! But nothing did. I got what I was fighting for, but now I can’t even run to prepare for the biggest season I’ve been a part of thus far.
My story has led me to the point I’m at today. I have lots of embarrassment and lots of pride surrounding my journey, but I’m here now and I’ve learned so much and I believe I’m much stronger from this.
My point is this. Don’t give up on what you really want. Don’t settle. But, be smart about how you get there and don’t hurt yourself in the process.