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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Temple chapter.

Like any former cross country athlete can tell you, running is hard. There are days when doing a hill workout or running mile repeats are the absolute last things you want to do. But then there are days when you can look past the challenges. Talking with your friends on runs, traveling to meets, winning medals, having pasta parties, and taking post-race pictures can make it all seem worth it. Despite all this, though, it became too difficult for me to look past the hard aspects of this sport, by the time I graduated high school. 

I participated in cross country from kindergarten through my senior year of high school and have made so many great memories with my teammates. I remember loving cross country throughout elementary school, with my coach even remarking on how I always seemed to be smiling when I ran. Practices were fun, and races did not yet bring me any stress. In high school, though, this all changed. 

Cross country became a lot more serious in high school. Five miles became the average for a distance run and workouts occurred multiple times a week. Teammates depended on each other during races and hundreds of spectators gathered each Saturday to watch us run. Weekly meetings were held to go over what times we must hit and what runners we must pass, and it quickly became too much. 

Every week before a race, I would feel anxiety like no other. I would feel nauseous for hours before a race, and the uneasy feelings would not reside until I crossed the finish line. Despite this, I ran well. I tried to ignore the stress so that my teammates would not be let down. I pushed myself as hard as I could and felt proud that my times were getting better each week. My team won a championship, we got some medals, and our names were written in newspapers. On the outside, everything was perfect. On the inside, I was crumbling. 

I began to dread practices and races. The thought of hundreds of eyes watching me run and judging me if I was too slow made me feel terrible. There was too much pressure to do well and when my times became slower my junior year, the little motivation I had left for the sport vanished. I was simply trying to get through the meets without walking and felt little joy when we won. 

When it came time for college, I had hoped that running would feel different. I joined my school’s cross country team and began training over the summer. But the pressure was still there- and on a much bigger scale. The thought of letting down my new teammates or being the slowest runner during a collegiate race caused my runs to be full of stress. I could not stop thinking about all of the “what-ifs,” and impulsively sent an email to my coach about quitting the team before the season had even begun. 

I felt like a failure for quitting; but now, three years later, I can see that it was the right choice at that moment. I needed to take a step back from running and see what it would be like to not feel the constant pressure of having to do well in races each week. I decided to focus on school and myself for a bit until I felt ready to run again. During my first two years of college, I joined clubs, made friends, got a few jobs, and worked to maintain good grades. I was busy and sometimes stressed, but I was also having a good time- which was something I had sorely missed. I began to allow myself to relax every once in a while, and eventually found myself wanting to run again. 

During my sophomore year of college, I signed my family up to run a 5k on my birthday. Part of me wanted to prove to myself that I was still capable of a 5k, but another part was also just excited to get my legs moving again after months of not running. It was one of my slowest times ever, but I felt proud of myself for trying and signed myself up for another 5k the following weekend. 

I continued doing a few 5k races a year, and quickly found myself looking forward to running. Without expectations to win, races became fun. Running with my family members and feeling strong after a difficult course made me so happy that I began to run outside of races too. I have begun going on my own runs again and have found a lot of joy in them. I no longer feel anxiety about running. Instead, I now run in order to help when I am feeling anxious. Running is no longer about improving times each race, but is instead about making myself feel good. It is simply about getting some exercise and having fun. 

Now, I feel excited to wake up and go on a run. I pop in my earbuds and get a Taylor Swift album going- and I feel stronger than I have in years. I wave to the people I see and feel proud of myself for completing a run, even if it was a slower one. I feel happier running than I have in a long time. 

I still feel a little queasy when I drive past the park where our meets were held, and perhaps I always will. But I also feel nostalgic. I had some pretty great experiences there, and I will always be grateful that I got to run for so many years with great people. But now, running means something different to me. It is not about winning anymore. It is about doing something I love. And because of that, I am able to look past the hard apsects of cross country and smile while I run once more.

Maggie Salter is an opinion writer for Temple University's Her Campus chapter. She writes about her love of reading, television, and running and shares her personal experiences as a transfer student. Outside of writing for Her Campus, Maggie does a lot of work with Temple University's television station. Since transferring, she has become a writer for Temple Tonight, a late night tv show. She has also worked as a crew member for other programs, including the women-led We Need to Talk, and has recently joined Temple Update as a social media producer. At her previous university, she developed her writing skills by working as a peer tutor in the writing center and taking a playwriting course that enabled her to win first place in a one-act play competition. Currently, Maggie is a junior Media Studies and Production student at Temple University and hopes to pursue a career involving writing and television. In her free time, Maggie enjoys being outside and going on scenic runs while listening to Taylor Swift, especially Speak Now (Taylor’s Version). She also loves reading romance and fantasy novels and watching comedies. Maggie enjoys seeing musicals at the Kimmel Center and loves to sing show tunes in the car as much as possible.