When people see me wearing my cross country sweatshirt in school, they think I’m crazy for choosing to run for fun. When they learn that I run anywhere from two to eight miles per day, they think I’m out of my mind. Although my peers think that running is a punishment, I believe it is a reward, and that I am not crazy or out of my mind for pursuing this sport.
Running has greatly influenced my life. This sport has taught me many lessons that I go on to use every day. Cross country has taught me to go out of my comfort zone, be more out-going, eat healthier, and has greatly helped me in dealing with stress.
Going out of my comfort zone was always a problem for me. I have always been afraid to try new things and go to unfamiliar places. During cross country, our coach would purposefully get us lost somewhere in our town (or a different town) and choose one of us to lead us back to our school using a different route. We couldn’t ask for help from anyone either. Experiences like these have taught me to remain calm and to not give up. Even though I felt scared that I would go in the wrong direction, I would remain calm and keep running until I found a familiar landmark. This has also given me a chance to see various parts of my town, and helps me to realize that if I get lost on a run, I can find my way back easily. I used to be afraid to go new places with my friends, but now I am not afraid to go out of my comfort zone.
Ever since I was a child, I have been very shy and afraid to talk to anyone outside my group of friends. When I joined the cross country team, the older girls made me feel like this team was my family. They made me feel welcome, and I felt that they were easy to approach and talk to. I wound up developing close relationships with a lot of my teammates. I’ve also learned that talking to girls from other teams a few minutes before races has helped to calm my nerves. My teammates and I will approach new girls and talk for a while about running, and we’ll crack a few jokes to take our mind off the race. These conversations sometimes lead to developments of relationships with runners from other schools, as I’ll see some of the girls I’ve talked to, and approach them again at other races. I’ve learned it’s easy to talk to new people who share a common passion.
Cross country has played a large role in the improvement of my health. As a child, I was always underweight, and was very short. I wouldn’t have a big appetite, and I never realized how damaging this was to my body. When I joined cross country, my coach taught all of us to track our calorie intake and amount burned by physical activity. By tracking my calorie intake, I realized that I was depriving my body of food. I decided to start researching meal plans for runners. By doing this, I also realized that I was lacking key nutrients and vitamins, such as iron. I also started adding more protein, such as chicken and peanut butter into my diet, since protein aids in muscle build-up. I started drinking more fruit and peanut butter smoothies (to incorporate nutrients and vitamins in my diet), and instead of just eating a salad and an apple for lunch, I added grilled chicken to the salad and peanut butter to my apple (to incorporate more protein into my diet). Because of these changes, I grew taller, gained a healthy amount of weight, and built up more muscle in my arms, legs, and abdominals.
Finally, running helped me deal with stress. I carry a lot of mental stress as a result of school work and tests, since I am a high honor roll student. When I run, my mind allows me to forget about everything. It’s just me and the ground at my feet. After a long day at school and of worrying about homework and tests, a long run allows me to forget about everything school related. This sport also helps me with my time management, as I stay after school until 5 and have meets and practices on Saturdays. This means that I have to be able to make time to study and do my homework on top of practices.
Although others think that running would make them more stressed out and tired, running has the opposite effect on me. Running has helped me deal with my problems and has made me a better and healthier person. In my experience, the benefits of running outweigh the negatives, and I hope to continue running until I can’t anymore. To some this may seem crazy but for me, running maintains my sanity.