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Running has never been one of my strengths. I am most definitely not an athletically-inclined person, nor do I have much coordination in general. But for some very odd, unexplainable reason, I ran cross country in high school. I had run in middle school, though I had not particularly enjoyed the sweaty mornings with only twenty minutes to get ready for school after an intense workout. No part of me, at that point, wished to continue running in high school. In fact, I swore on the last day of afternoon practice in eighth grade that I would never run again.
Months later, the high school cross country meeting flyers were up and I remembered the morning base runs and laps around the field next to the school. But something seemed different about high school cross country- the girls seemed nicer, the workouts seemed less boring, the coach seemed inspiring. And my unbalanced, uncoordinated, extremely unathletic self signed up to run.
Though we ran almost every morning in the summer, official fall practices were even more serious; we started earlier in the morning, had harder workouts, and ran in meets on Saturdays. With school and other extracurriculars, life became a blur. Cross country ended abruptly, and a part of me was genuinely sad it was gone.
A year of other sports and other memories passed, and around came the cross country meeting. I anticipated it; I grew excited for it. I ran a season much like the last. In a blur, it came and went, leaving me once again with good memories and a few good laughs.
Then came junior year. As the summer workouts began, something was different. I was no longer just a freshman trying to run or a sophomore still trying to figure things out, but now an official part of the team. Something had changed, but it was not something material which had done so. Our workouts were the same; most of the people I ran with were the same. It was how I viewed the program itself that changed and how I had begun to see myself as a part of it. My perspective changed. I was by far not our best runner, and honestly, I was a pretty bad one. Yet there was something more in the spirit of things that kept me there- something that made the early mornings and sleep deprivation worth it.
There was one morning in particular where I began to grasp why it all meant more. It began as usual with a few groans from runners sprawled on the pavement before practice started. Then the piercing shrill of a voice breaking the peace to tell us to start. We began warming up. As it was still before six in the morning, it was rather dark and the air was cool on our skin. We jogged to the track to warm up. It started to sprinkle. We kept running.
As we ran a few warm-up laps, the rain increased to a steady drizzle. We stretched a little, and the rain picked up a little more as we ran a few sprints. The rain was now a steady pour. We kept running.
Normally, we might have gone to run inside, but it was Thursday- hill day. We waited for our coach to call it off, as the rain didn’t seem to be lightening up at all. But he told us to run down to the bottom of the hill.
At the bottom, we prepared ourselves to make the climb to the top. It started to pour. It was no longer a sprinkle or a drizzle of rain. It was a complete downpour. This was one of the few times where I’ve been in the kind of rain where you are instantly soaked. Coach said go. We ran.
That day, we had a mission. It was our day to get stronger, our day to fight past pain to get to the point where we could build strength. While our immediate thoughts were about getting out of the rain and doing just a modified workout inside, these were not the same thoughts our coach had. He knew our goal, and we had a plan. He wasn’t willing to back down because of a little obstacle. We came to run hills, and run hills we would.
Naturally, we had shied away because of the rain, barely giving thought to it. Our minds aren’t wired to persevere- they’re wired to protect us, to back away from pain, to stay out of “danger,” even if that so called danger is just a little rain. It takes conscious thought to avoid the careless, instant gratification that, unfortunately, comes naturally to us. We all have plans, dreams, and goals. Every choice we make either leads us towards our goal or pushes us away from the path. Moments of weakness and carelessness steer us away, but when we persevere and decide to conquer our obstacles instead of turning away, we take steps forward towards what we want in the big scheme of things, rather than what we think we want in one moment.