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On Sept. 16th, 2017, I ran a half marathon at age 15.

At 17 I did it again. I beat my PR and ran the best race of my life.

I was fully ready for 2020 to be the year I conquered the marathon. I knew, by now, how to train and eat and live in order to run a big race like this. I was mentally prepared for the hard work. Coming off the high of my last half marathon, I could nearly taste the way it would feel to cross that finish line.

Then a global pandemic hit the world, and I hit a rut.

Before 2020 I felt that I was an incredibly motivated individual. I’ve always been high achieving; I had a toxic relationship with my grades that would cause me to spiral at any moment of imperfection. Be it my Aries moon, possible high functioning anxiety or simply the way my brain works—I’ve always been able to push myself to just shy of breaking.

When COVID forced everyone indoors, it started out okay. I thought we would be out for two weeks. I would see my friends soon, get back to running (my senior season of track was just around the corner) and demolish any exam set in front of me. My senior year would be fine.

When we all realized the lockdown was going to be longer than that, I grew anxious. Would I get to run with my team one last time? I hadn’t run in about a month; I had no access to a treadmill and during that time everyone was a little too scared to leave the house at all. Would I be able to train for the marathon?

Soon after, I realized that this would be the end of my senior year and my hopes of running the race in 2020. I didn’t get to do all the things I had planned, and everything I was working towards simply floated away piece by piece. My schoolwork stopped feeling important to me, and most teachers stopped making zooms required, anyways. I stopped getting dressed in the morning. I spent every day in the Groundhog Day hell we all experienced, with the only changes being the numbers reported on the screen.

Lockdown caused me to fall into a very bad place. I was depressed and felt like a piece of me was missing. At this point, I hadn’t run for months and I felt terrible.

A thought occurred to me during that time in isolation: I’ve peaked. I will never be as good of a runner as I was at 15, and I’ll never achieve something like that again.

Looking back, I realize how ridiculous this thought was. To think I would never run the marathon I was dreaming of, never be an athlete again or never achieve something of high magnitude? But at the time, it seemed like life was over. Having my progress absolutely stunted made me feel like something was being taken from me—something that I would never get back.

So what do you do when you’ve peaked, and then immediately fallen off the mountain?

You find a new passion. You grow, and you do a whole lot of it. You realize that you used to base your worth on your achievements. You start to understand that you are something more than just a runner, a student or a leader, and that your worth is not conditional.

You realize that life is messy. Self improvement is messy, and becoming the person you want to be is not always right. You remind yourself that sometimes you need to let time shape and mold you into the person you’re meant to be instead. You laugh at your past criticisms, knowing now that peaking isn’t real and there is always time to grow. You know that it is okay to just be.

At least, that’s what I did. It takes a lot of courage to look inward and realize you haven’t been kind to yourself, then do something about it. At the end of the day we’re all doing our best, and isn’t that an achievement worth celebrating?

Jess Marinaro

Geneseo '24

Jess is a sophomore at SUNY Geneseo working on her English Creative Writing degree. In her free time, she loves yoga, meditation, reading, and matcha lattes. She has lots of thoughts, and writing about them is her favorite thing to do by far.
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