I usually end up doing them in the evening much later than I should. I tell myself I’m being strategical and avoiding the heat, but if that was true I would run in the morning (that RARELY happens). In reality, my procrastination and dread for long runs are the reason why my long runs happen in the evening.
Yesterday though, my run was pleasant. I never thought I’d say these words, but it was almost enjoyable.
Around 7:55 I told myself, “Bella, get up, you’re running.” I grabbed my headphones, running watch, a headlamp, and started to run.
It was cool weather.
My music was good.
It was dark to the point where I could see my shoes and three feet ahead of me, but nothing else.
I had no light to see my watch screen, so I just ran. I didn’t constantly check to see my mileage or pace, or how much time I had left: I simply just ran.
And then there were the shadows.
What I’m going to say next will sound like some philosophical bs but while I was running it totally made sense, if you’re a runner, you know that the mind starts to lose sanity after about five miles.
The newly set sun and distant street lights served as an invitation for three shadows to join me. One ran about four feet behind me, one right by my side, and one ran far in front of me.
I stared at the three shadows for a good twenty minuets because, like I said, running is a tedious thing that causes a bit of insanity, and I started to think.
I thought about my progress with running, the struggles I’ve faced with it, where I am, and where I want to be.
The shadow behind me represented where I started: my first time running without someone forcing me to do it, the first time I competed in a race, and all of the first steps I took in my running journey.
The middle shadow right next to me represented where I am now: I am not in as great of shape as I was at my peak, but I’m in better shape that when I started. I am working to improve my skills.
The shadow in front of me represents where I want to be: my goals, the times I want to achieve, races I want to compete in, and mental toughness that I want to acquire with my running.
On my evening long run, in my philosophical state, I stared ahead and placed one foot in front of the other, in a rhythmical pattern, as I chased down my running goals and the shadow that ran ahead of me.
I’m really confused about how my life is going to go in the future. I know what I want to, I’m just not sure how I’m going to do it.
My plan was to go either UCSB, Stanford, USC, or a college in Australia to study Marine Biology and/ or Environmental Science. I would then go to law school and become an environmental lawyer. At college, I would swim and play water polo.
Well, now I’m really in to running. I love triathlons too. I know I’m going to play sports in college, but which ones?
Recently I’ve been thinking about become a humane officer. It pains me to know that so many animals are suffering and abused. I want to dedicate my life to stopping the cruelty that takes place everyday. I want to do this, but there are some issues.
A humane officer makes 32,000 dollars annually. I don’t have millions of dollars in family money, I don’t have a billion dollars in my bank account, and I want to stay in California. I’m afraid 32,000 dollars would not be enough to have a home, a car, and eventually kids.
So, my plan is now to stick with being an environmental lawyer. I still really want to be a humane officer though…
Again, on the topic of money, I realized that I’m not going to have enough money to go to any of the colleges I want to go to. I could go to junior college. It would save a lot of money and I can save up for my next two years at a university.
I also want to take a gap year and go to the Peace Corps…
Will I go straight to a four year school? I wonder where I’m going to live after college? What college am I going to go to? What law school will I go to? Will I still want to be a lawyer, or will my opinions change? What sports will I play? Will I have a boyfriend? Will I get married? Am I going to have kids? When will I retire? Will I become a humane officer?
I don’t know, honestly. But maybe in thirty years, I’ll come back to this post and reflect on everything I did or didn’t do.
Since I’m currently training by myself, I get to decide where I run. I avoid this road as much as possible. But during cross country season, when I’m at the mercy of my coaches, most of our workouts involve the road in some way.
Going down is smooth sailing. Going up is hell.
The road is more like a hill, a giant, mile-plus long hill. It’s on a constant incline and, as you get closer to the top, it gets steeper.
At first, I absolutely loathed this road.
I always hated it in the beginning, because it turned even my best runs turn into something that made me feel like I was putting myself through torture.
The road is sometimes unforgiving. The more you climb, the weaker your legs feel, the more your lungs burn, the more you feel like your brain is about to explode.
I used to fight it. Each day, I felt like I was preparing for this great battle, in which only one victor would prevail: me or the hill.
But, eventually, I started to realize that it wasn’t really a battle of physicality; it was more so a battle of wit. I learned to work with the road instead of against it and things started to make more sense.
I learned to take advantage of even the tiniest bit of downhill, to take the straightest line possible. I started to read the road, to take note of how it felt when I ran a certain way.
To this day, I still don’t like running it. But, I’ve learned how to do it properly.
The road used to be some foreign, intimidating beast that I thought I would never be able to understand. Now, I realize that it was really just an old, wise mentor for me, my very own Mr. Miyagi.
Last night, I was headed up the road on the bus and, as I looked out the window, I knew exactly what point we were at solely based on the glimpse I caught of the tops of the oak trees. It made me smile, seeing how far I’ve come.
The same miles of curving pavement that used to seem endless to me are now ingrained into my memory, including details down to which tree is positioned where on each corner.
The countless days of practice, all of the sweat-soaked t-shirts and aching muscles really did pay off, in so many more ways than for just my running.
If only I knew back then just how much I would come to understand the road and how much it would come to understand about me.
Let’s face it, they’re nice. Who am I kidding, they can be great.
Would you rather win the lottery or work your ass off everyday, struggling to get by?
Would you rather get straight A’s and not even have to try or be in a class where getting a B- minus is a HUGE accomplishment?
Would you rather do your Spanish homework or go on Quizlet and find the answers?
Would you rather tell your mom you swept the floor or would you rather actually sweep the floor?
Would you rather take an hour to fold and put away your clothes or just shove them in your closet in less than thirty seconds?
What I’m getting at here is, shot cuts can be nice. Who am I kidding, they can be great. Yet, as great as they are, most make life harder in the long run.
Cool, Quizlet got my Spanish work done in two minutes, but do I even know what the heck any of the questions are asking?
Cool, my mom thinks I swept the floor, but am I really the type of person who will throw away their integrity just to get out of a thirty second chore?
Cool, my clothes are out of the way, but, shoot, when I went to get dressed, a mountain of clothing fell on me.
Cool, I did twenty push-ups instead of twenty-five, but is getting done first even an accomplishment if you cheated?
Many days, I see people taking short cuts too, so its nice to know that I’m not the only one. But, more than just self-reassurance, I find it comforting that I’m not the only one who occasionally struggles with putting short term effects over long term results.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you need to walk twenty miles to work instead of driving because you have legs. I’m nothing saying to use them, to not even think about taking the car. I’m not saying no short cuts for you. But, if work is a three minute walk from your house, don’t take a short cut and drive. Being efficient and taking a short cut are two VERY different things.
Efficiency is great. A needed skill set in the always-going world we live in. Why would you walk twenty miles to get to work when you can take a quarter of the time and drive? Why take three hours hand-writing a story when you can type it in a half hour?
A lot of the time, people mistake efficiency for cheating. The definition of efficiency is to get the most done in the shortest amount of time with the least work. So, maybe you’re thinking, that you’d rather read the Spark Notes of a book than read the full book.
Here’s the thing, when your teacher asks you what the main character’s last name is, will you have a clue?
When the Spanish test gets handed back, will you get a good grade?
When your mom asks if you did your chores, will you lie directly to her face?
When the race comes and your teammates are strong from doing all the pushups, was the satisfaction of doing less in practice worth the shame you feel now?
Recently, Ive been working on doing the right thing instead of taking the easy way out. I read my English books instead of reading the summary, so I get a good grade on the test. I worked hard in practice and I got a personal record in my race. I took the time to get what I needed to get done instead of putting it off for later or completely ignoring it at all.
I’ve realized that no matter how much you don’t want to, pushing through the little things is what makes you better, stronger, and smarter. Suffering through a hard workout will eventually result in success; thinking about what you say before you speak will result in less regretted words; and putting your all into everything you do will result in a life that you’re proud of.
Take the route that’s right, instead of the short cut. Because, as cliché as it sounds, it’s not the destination that matters, its’ the journey.
synonyms: join (forces), collaborate, get together, work together.
Sweaty hugs; cheering until my throat is raw;the pre-race jitters; hard-earned Gatorade; singing to “Africa” on the bus rides; pushing through almost unbearable pain; the cheers from my coaches and team mates; the feeling of success, when all the hard training and effort pays off; the happiness of coaches bringing food, after you just pushed yourself to your physical max; the endless support we have for each other; the amount of effort we put in; the dynamic and connection between us athletes; the fact that real teammates don’t only care about how you perform, they care about how hard you try. All these things contribute to the the feeling of being part of an authentic team, which is one of the best feelings that exists.
of undisputed origin; genuine.
“the letter is now accepted as an authentic document”
synonyms: genuine, real, bona fide, true, veritable
In my words, the way it should be: caring and real.
I’ve been on many teams before. On some, we’ve won championships and received numerous trophies. On some, we placed last and got our asses handed to us. Winning is great, it’s what I strive to do, but I’ve realized that more than just winning that counts. I’ve realized that to have a good team, winning can’t be the only focus.
On a previous team, every day I would give my all. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, even the slightest mess-up resulted in dirty glares and angry shrugs. It made it so I was nervous to go to practice; I was afraid of my teammates; I pushed myself to the limits, because I was scared the punishment if I didn’t; and I was absolutely mortified before every game. This approach worked. I got stronger, I got better, I became a better athlete, but I forgot the fact that I love the sport.
After two years on that team, another opportunity came up, so I switched to a team with a VERY different dynamic. We pushed each other to do our best, to be our best. When slip-ups or bad days came, we encouraged each other to get better, not to feel like shit. I became so close to my teammates, I had good relationships with my coaches, I was so excited to go to practice everyday, and I pushed myself to the limits, because I wanted to get better for myself and my team. Our team performed just as well as the other one I mentioned and my love for the sport was rekindled.
Recently, I joined another team. I love both of the teams I’m on right now so much, but it’s been a long time since I have felt the feeling of happiness, appreciation, friendship, and passion as I did yesterday at my first ever cross country meet.
I know I love swimming far more than I love running, so it confuses me that yesterday, in this sport that I just joined months ago, has brought me almost as much joy as the sport I have been doing for years. I think it’s just because swimming is more of an individual sport without a large aspect of team. I think its because the swim team I’m on has people who qualify for the Olympics or on the Junior National Team and I’m so slow compared to them, it makes me feel like I’m slow, period. Maybe its because a cross country the team is only as strong as its weakest link, so everyone is needed. Maybe because in the small league we run in, I too place high and feel like a good runner.
I think all of these things are a factor, but what I know for sure is that the feeling of being part of an authentic team is one of the best feelings that exists.
In cross county, my coaches always remind us that the sport has as much to do with mental strength as it does physical strength.
With that in mind, I’d like to invite you to come running with me – for the mental part, at least.
Here’s what a few miles look like inside of my head.
Mile 1: Don’t start too fast, just get warmed up. It’s hot today, but not as bad as it usually is. The gravel crunches beneath my shoes. We reach a little bit of downhill.
I hear my coach’s voice: “Let gravity do the work.” Get your breathing back. Drop your arms. Shake it out. The road in front of us curves up a long hill. It’s steep. Slow it down. What hurts worse, lungs or legs? Legs. I can breathe still. My calves tighten the farther up we climb. I count my steps between each exhale. We’re running in 4/4 time. I inhale on the 1st beat, exhale through 2, 3, 4.
Sweat drips down my forehead. I wipe it off with my shirt. Take it easy now. My breathing is steady – that’s good. My left calf hurts more than my right. The opposite of yesterday. This hill is a bitch. Settle in, we’ll be here for a while. It hurts.
Mile 3: Keep your arms down. Breathe. The road settles and is flat for a while. You’re not tired, it just hurts.
Mile 4: What hurts worse, lungs or legs? Both. You’re not tired, you just can’t breathe. There’s a difference. The next two miles are steady uphill. Use your arms! The harder you work the faster you’ll be done.
Mile 5: This hill is a BITCH. My ragged breathing is louder than my shoes on the pavement. Sweat covers my whole body. My arms ache from pumping and the muscles in my legs feel like they’re made of both cement and water at the same time. My mouth is so dry that when I touch my tongue to the roof of my mouth it sticks. Eyes up, on the road. So close. I feel awful. I can’t breathe. The smell of wood chips in the orchard makes me want to puke. Push. Everything hurts.
I jog past the green gate the marking the end of the road, the end of the run. My left foot leaves the pavement and lands on grass and the right follows. Don’t sit down. Breathe. As I walk back and forth beneath the oak trees, my lungs start to settle down. The tension in my legs slowly fades, first easing up in my quads and then from my calves.
My breathing returns to normal. I’m not hurting anymore. I just ran five miles. I feel good.
The competition was fierce with girls finishing at 15:49 (Claudia Lane). I am so overwhelmed by how amazing every single runner there was and I only hope that our small but mighty team will continue to qualify for this competition for the rest of my years in high school.
The course was a flat, dusty dirt course, with hundreds of spectators cheering you on on the side and helping you push yourself that extra mile in order to achieve your goal.
A gun was shot into the air symbolizing the start of the race, and everyone on the starting line sprung into action and begun sprinting their way to the front of the pack, including myself. We resembled salmon in a hatchery, all swimming against the current, piled against each other, pushing ourselves to the limit.
After everyone settled down, paces were found and the true part of the race began. Normally being in the top ten in the races, it was strange for Ojai Valley School to settle into the middle of the pack with fifty, sixty, or seventy people in front and behind you. It was nerve-racking for everyone, but comforting knowing every runner felt the same pain in your lungs as you.
Adrenaline kicked into the runners as we made our way onto the third mile of the race. Strides lengthened, breathing became harder, and you began to pass people you never thought you would pass. Suddenly, you saw the finish line, the symbol of relief. The last quarter mile- a straight-away to the finish line- flew by as the runner zoomed down the dirt path, and the tracker-chips woven into their shoes crossed the finish line.
Tears were shed, and hugs were given knowing that we gave it our all. The overwhelming excitement hit us all at once knowing that we had completed our first CIF Championship meet. And even though we did not qualify, all the underclassmen are determined to return to the course next year and try, try, try again.
I can not begin to thank the coaches enough for an amazing season and helping me push myself to times I believed were unachievable. Having never run before and to come out of the gates increasing my PR (personal record) by over three minutes was groundbreaking for me, and I could not have done it without Mr. Alvarez and Ms. Stevens.
Growing up, I was never good at sports, or at least that’s what I thought. It’s not that I had a pronounced lack of capability, just that I never thought I should be able to take sports seriously.
In my family, one of the most prevalent themes is our insane dedication to sports. Having an uncle in the MLB, a dad who can play or coach practically anything, cousins who dedicate their entire young lives to a single sport, and brothers who have athletic superpowers, it’s a given that everyone puts tremendous pride on everything sport-related.
From soccer to basketball, football to baseball and everything in between, anything my brothers played seemed to come so naturally and effortlessly. They were practically carbon copies of my dad when he was their age. Being the youngest of three, I’ve had the thrilling experience of going to endless games, practices, and races – all displaying my siblings’ somewhat unfair skills.
So of course, as a toddler my parents enrolled me in AYSO and Little League, probably expecting to have produced yet another super-human athlete. Year after year, I humored my parents and played on whatever teams I was signed up for. But year after year, I was never interested. Maybe I might have been a little less coordinated than the average kid, but I’m pretty sure I just never wanted or tried to be good.
When I was old enough to be able to decide for myself, I avoided sports all together. Instead, I opted for a more intellectual path. In elementary school it started to become clear that I was sort of smart and sort of good at music, so that’s where everybody focused their attention.
For so long I’d heard the lighthearted remarks of “she’s just so book smart. Her street smarts, though, they’re a little lacking” or once when I unsuccessfully tried to serve a volleyball a friend joked that I “bring shame to my family’s legacy.” Whenever I attempted to learn something everyone laughed. So, eventually, I laughed about it too. I guess in a way that’s a good thing, because I learned the importance of being able to laugh at myself.
I never took sports seriously because no one ever took me seriously when I tried them. I’m not resentful of all of these years, I’m just disappointed that I’ve been labeled as “un-athletic” for my entire life when, for the majority of it, I’d never had the chance to figure out that I wasn’t.
For awhile I felt bad for my dad. I worried that I had somehow let him down not having a profound interest or ability in sports. In middle school I tried out for the soccer team. It was mostly because my friends were doing it, but part of me wanted to give myself a second chance.
Although the start was pretty rocky, eventually I realized that it was sort of fun. I wasn’t ever the best player on the team, but I also was definitely not the worst. I remember my dad telling me once after a winning game, “You’re getting to be a good soccer player, I’m impressed.” I remember being proud of my performance in that game, but also I was also proud that for the first time ever I had been recognized for my ability in a sport.
When I got into high school, I actually looked forward to the end of the day when I could leave everything behind for a few hours and just kick a ball around with my teammates. But it wasn’t until recently that I realized I have the potential to be really good at a sport. During the fall of my freshman year, I decided to join cross country. I really liked the experience, and I liked how I’d gotten in shape, but I was never exceedingly fast or impressive that season.
But this year, I worked a lot harder. I’d started running so much better than I had last season. At each progressive meet, I would cut a considerable amount off my time and at the league final, that work payed off. It was by far my best race ever, and everyone on our team beat their personal records.
This Saturday, we went to CIF preliminaries. I never thought I’d be able to say that.
Cross country has helped me realize that I’m stronger than I knew I could be, physically and mentally. I still have a long way to go, but now I have goals that I can look forward to. And I know with time and dedication I can reach them.
It maybe took me fifteen years to realize it, but after all this time I know that I’m not really all that uncoordinated or un-athletic. I just wish I wouldn’t have put myself in that box so early on. I wish wouldn’t have gone my whole life believing that I was only “book smart” and putting up with all of the “maybe you should just stick to singing” comments.