I haven’t always been a runner. It’s not something that came naturally to my 5’2” lanky frame. I was a scrappy little kid—a tomboy at heart—always climbing trees and scrapping my knees; baseball hat pulled backward and I was ready to go.
I was in sixth grade the first time running was introduced to me as a real sport. I was heading inside after yet another thrilling recess filled with playing tag when the track coach pulled me aside and asked if I had considered joining the team. “Do you have any interest in running? He asked. I shook my head “no” because honestly, the thought had never occurred to me. Running just to run? What’s the fun in that? But basketball season had just ended and I was looking for something to pass the time after school. So I gave it a shot.
I remember going to my first track meet with my dad. It was a cold and rainy March morning. I competed in one of the short distance events in the freezing rain and HATED every second of it.
You might have been thinking this would be one of those inspirational anecdotes where I found my lifelong love on the track, but it’s not. I hated running. And I especially hated running in the rain. So I quit the team without a second thought.
Five years later, and still a scrawny little thing, I was attempting to fulfill my lifelong purpose as high school volleyball all-star. There was just one thing standing in my way—the fact that I was way too short and had no business trying out for the team. A fact the coach had no issue telling me.
I was in the weight room after tryouts one afternoon, attempting to bulk up my tiny arms so I could hit the ball harder (thus proving my coach wrong) when I was approached for a second time about running. This time it was the cross country coach who asked me if I was interested in joining his team. I wanted to tell him that the mere idea of running long distances for hours at a time filled me with an utter sense of dread, but I think I just shook my head “no.”
“You look like a runner,” he said. “You should come check it out.”
In hindsight, I think he just needed some more girls to fill up space on his team, but I was feeling a bit defeated about my chances as a rising volleyball star, and so my vertically-challenged self just took the bait.
I joined the cross country team and to my amazement… I loved it. I loved our practices in the metro parks beneath the shade of the trees. The short run downhill from our school that led us right into the heart of the park. The steady beat of our shoes hitting the earth as we weaved our way through the woods. I loved the sense of calm and ease that running gave me. My mind became quiet and all my worries just melted away with each step I took on that dirt trail.
I found myself surrounded by an amazing coach and mentor and a group of girls who had fun and just loved to run. It was infectious. We ran in the sun and in the rain and everything in between. We trained at dawn and we trained in the dark. We sprinted straightaways and we hiked up hills and we pushed each other to be our best selves.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. And so the season ended as quickly as it had begun. I felt disappointed in myself for waiting so long to join the team but grateful to my coach for giving me this amazing gift, this second chance.
– – –
Fast forward 20 years later—I’m still scrawny, but strong. And I own it.
It’s another chilly, rainy day in the middle of March and I’m gearing up for another run. I’ve been training with my husband since January and in about a month my hard will have paid off as run my second half marathon.
The point is that life is full of second chances. Some are big and some are small. Some might seem trivial at the time, but they can each help shape and mold you into the person you were destined to become. You just need the sense to take it—and the right people encouraging you along the way.