January 3, 2014
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I didn’t set out to be a runner.

In fact, I was fourteen before anything significant happened in my running career. Previously, I had participated recreationally in middle school running sports, and before that, I had earned the distinction of first female finisher of the mile in my elementary school gym class. Then, in freshman year, I took a risk.

It was March 21st, the start of Track and Field practice. The day dawned gray and rainy and remained that way. We were informed that practice had never been cancelled in living memory, and this day was no exception.

I still remember it; I was crippled by lactic acid as we jogged, my face felt slimy from the unrelenting mist, and when we sat for our requisite curl-ups, my yoga pants got soaked from the wet track. A discouraging start, perhaps, but I came back the next day because of my commitment to the team.

I remember that first week, too; my muscles had never been so unwilling to drag me up a flight of stairs. I shuffled to classes, limiting movement so as not to aggravate the pain. After practice, I walked on toes and heels with nervous energy, hoping to prevent dreaded shin splints. After long runs, I took equally long showers, hot water relaxing my tight calf muscles.

I was a distance runner now, one of a select few girls who eschewed the easy lifestyle of short sprints, freely electing to run countless miles to improve ourselves. I beat my body into shape, conquered soreness, and consistently finished last in timed workouts. Naturally, I didn’t make varsity – that was earned in sophomore and junior years.

For me, running isn’t about the letter. Instead, in the pressure cooker of high school, running is my way of letting off steam. I don’t do it for a resume. Rather, I do it for me – for my health, sanity, and self-esteem. I started with no expectations; I knew I wasn’t the most competitive runner. Nevertheless, I had goals - I put in my best effort to be the best that I, individually, could be.

I was careful to allow myself the freedom of deciding to stop. Although I never chose that option, having an emergency ‘out’ took the edge off the burden to perform well. If track ever became tedious or started increasing my stress, I’d stop. Practice wasn’t drudgery because I chose to be there. Some days, I chose to run to feel fit; others, it was to spend time with friends. But every day, I was running. For me, running is a perfect conglomerate of limbs in synchronization. It’s the absence of thoughts aside from the need to lift those knees. When I run, I don’t worry about homework or tightness in my calves as I push up the hill. Instead, the only thing that exists is the repetitive motion of one foot in front of the other, and I am at peace.

I am a runner.

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