My running journey begins in Las Vegas, Nevada in the summer of 2010, before entering my freshman year of high school. All my life leading up to that summer I played soccer.. and I absolutely sucked at it. I was little so I got pushed over easily and cried every time I headed a ball. The only thing I was good at was out running the other girl I was covering. This was when I started figuring out I was good at running, so I began thinking about the possibility of joining the high school cross country team. Actually let me re-phrase that.. I jumped at the opportunity to quit soccer, relieved I would never accidentally head a ball in to my own goal again (yes that happened more than once).
Within the first two weeks of cross country practice I quickly moved up to running the varsity distance (5 miles instead of 3) at practice. I was surprised how natural running felt to me. Throughout that first cross country season I looked up to the seniors a lot, hoping one day I might be as fast as them. I was lucky to have such great teammates throughout high school. Then cross country season came to an end and track practice began. I soon realized I was much better at mid-distance races than cross country. Every mile or 800 race I ran, seconds began dropping off my time. I discovered I had this crazy kick that came out of nowhere, and I soon understood how to race smart. I would hang in the middle of the pack and on the last lap I had so much energy I would blow by everyone. Realizing the talent I had, I created a goal for myself that season: win the mile at regionals. *Now it’s important to note that the running competition in Nevada is not nearly as competitive as it is in states like California or New Jersey.
Regionals finally came and the first race of the day was the 4×800. During my last lap as the anchor for our team, I encountered something I never thought possible. Turning the corner to the last 100 meters, side by side with our biggest competitor at the time, I felt a throbbing pain in my upper left hamstring. I had never felt pain like that before. The adrenaline helped me finish, and thankfully we won by less than a second. Everyone was excited but I could not fake a smile. I could barely walk after crossing that finish line. After our athletic trainer evaluated my hamstring, she said it was most likely torn. I knew my season goal of winning the mile was out of reach now. I sat in the bleachers the rest of that day with an ice pack wrapped around my hamstring.
Feeling more motivated than ever, I took good care of my injury and came back pretty fast. I learned a very important lesson about listening to your body as a runner, and thankfully never ran into another injury during my high school running career. Fast forward a bit: I progressed immensely every year; racking up medal after medal. My team won several state titles, I won more than 18 individual regional titles, and finally, in my senior year, I reached my biggest running goal: breaking 5 minutes for the mile. Achieving this goal of mine landed me a track and field scholarship to the University of Georgia. Everything was coming together and I was so excited for the future.
My first week of practice at UGA was.. hard. Very hard. Not the running part itself, but mentally. My first cross country season and semester at UGA was a big adjustment. Adjusting from high school running to college is hard because suddenly everyone is just as good as you are. This might sound strange but most athletes who make it to a big school for athletics were also the top runner on their team, the region champ, or state champ, just like you. This was honestly very difficult for me to get used to. My weekly mileage increased 20 miles more than what I was running in high school (40 compared to 60), and as I mentioned earlier, I was more of a mid-distance runner than long distance. This caused me to run into my first injury since over four years ago: shin splints. I missed the winter track season but made it back in time to run outdoor track. I matched my mile time but did not improve from my high school times. The next year, my sophomore year, things got easier and I felt like my old self again. I was killing workouts and was handling 60 miles a week well. Just when I thought I was finally going to have my chance to shine at SECs, I ran into a career ending injury. It was the day before the SEC Cross Country Championships in College Station Texas, and we were at the course for a shake-out run. Earlier in the week I had felt some discomfort near and around my pelvic area. Being a girl though, I ignored it thinking it was about that time of the month again or something of that sort. We were only a few steps into our shake out run and the sharp pain in my pelvis was too much to handle. I couldn’t even take a full stride. Walking back to our tent with tears falling uncontrollably from my eyes, I felt more defeated than I ever had before. The next day I sat in my rain gear and watched as my teammates ran through mud patches and wet grass.
The next week I got an MRI done to see what was going on. I was diagnosed with two stress fractures in my pelvis. I limped around campus the next few weeks and thankfully had a handy best friend that would carry me on her back up the never ending stairs to our chemistry class. Five months went by before I was allowed to run on the ground again. This time was different however. I didn’t feel that same determination to come back. I honestly wasn’t even excited to run on the ground again and I had no desire to go to practice. Over the summer I thought a lot about my life and my priorities. I tried to suppress my negative thoughts about running until I talked to another teammate and best friend of mine that told me she was thinking about quitting as well. Finally being able to open up about all the feelings I was afraid to admit to myself helped me realize this wasn’t my passion anymore. Thankfully this was around the time I was learning a lot about veganism, and my passions and career goals were changing. Talking to my dad about my decision was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. He loved watching me run, but he understood where I was coming from and supported my decision.
I stopped running after I made my decision to take a break and took up other forms of exercise such as yoga and pilates. I was having a lot of fun experimenting with new workouts. I really needed a break from running. I feel like many other runners must go through this now and then as well. This went on for the majority of my junior year. It wasn’t until senior year that I fell back in love with running. But my relationship with running is much different now. There is no pressure attached to it. I am solely running because I want to, not because I have to. I choose to run 8 miles, but I can stop at 4 any day I feel like it. Running to me now is a form of meditation.
I remember in high school being afraid of the day I wasn’t going to be a competitive runner anymore. Now that that day has come I am here to tell any of you that might have this same fear that running is a journey. There are many stages of running you will experience in your life. Enjoy all parts of it and never take your ability to run for granted