To say this job has me missing my competitive high school running days would be an understatement; while I wasn’t the fastest or strongest runner, I did do pretty well on my track and cross country teams at Bartlett High, and I definitely took those moments for granted.
I remember my first ever cross country race – it was a time trail at our home course, and, man, it was brutal. Aside from the 90-degree temperatures, I had been practicing for maybe a week and a half, and as a never-before-runner, that was not enough time.
In all honesty, I hated our home course; it was two giant loops around a park near my house, and it always seemed to be the sunniest day because there was barely any trees or shade. There is one section, though, where you run through a wooded area, and that’s where I walked the first time I ran it – oops.
If I had to pick one moment as the pivotal moment that made me love running, that would be during track my senior year.
I had been running the 1600-meter, or one-mile race for the last two seasons, and my times were consistently hovering right around the 6:20 mark. I broke six minutes once my junior year at the Conant High School race, at 5:56, and my goal for my last season was to do it again. After having a terrible indoor season, I began doubting myself, yet my coach continued putting me in that race. Come outdoor season, my times dropped a bit, but I couldn’t seem to break six minutes again despite all my efforts in practice.
Soon, some of my teammates started getting better and running the race with me. Trying not to be selfish, I supported them. But this was my event, and I wanted to be the one to break six, not someone who’s running the race for their first or second time.
Our last race of the regular season was at Conant High School. I knew I’d done it on this track before, so I figured I could do it again. However, the winds were not favorable that night, and I crossed that line three seconds after the six-minute mark. I had never been one to get super competitive, but I was hard on myself, and I started crying out of frustration.
I was given one more chance, though, at our sectionals meet. It was at Streamwood High School, where a lot of our meets were held. I knew this was my last opportunity to run my hardest, so I had to leave it all on the track. I don’t remember the race too much, seeing that it was already four years ago, but I do remember going out really fast and trying to keep that consistent pace. As I crossed the finish line, I heard my coach and my parents cheer: my time was 5:54.
While it may seem cliché to say my favorite moment of my running career was when I beat my personal record, it was more than that. It was the result of an entire season of hard work, and the first time I realized that I really could do anything I put my mind to.
When I first joined cross country, a few of my family members said they were impressed because they never saw me as a runner; frankly, I never did either. My plan for high school was to play volleyball all four years, but when that didn’t work out, I went where some of my friends were. This is one of the main reasons I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I am so thankful that running was introduced into my life.
Since high school, my running days have been much more recreational. I did my first half marathon last summer, and even though I did walk a little bit because of the unbearable humidity, I still cried tears of joy and accomplishment when I finished. I am running my second one this September, with a goal of running the entire thing.
Whether I continue racing or just run a few miles with my dog for the rest of my life, I am very grateful to be able to be a runner. It is both my go-to stress reliever and workout of choice, and now, it is even a part of my job.