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Dear Running: You Changed My Life

From the moment I heard the gun go off in my first cross country race, I knew that I was about to venture into a sport that would not only challenge me but also serve as one of the best decisions of my life. I had run my first 5k race at 12 years old and from then on, I knew that running was for me. Not just recreationally ,but competitively.

So, at 13 years old, on the day of my first cross country race, I was ready to take on the competition. I was in the second heat, so I knew that I had a pretty good chance of finishing at the head of the pack. I can still remember how nervous I was that day, peering behind my shoulder, looking at my parents, my coaches, and praying that I would make them proud. It was my first race and I, for one, wanted to make myself proud. I wanted to finish out on top… I wanted to make it to the first heat race.

I felt a numbness come over my body as the official stepped onto the field. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the race, but I knew that I was ready for it. Before I knew it, the gun shot into the air, reverberating in my ears, but by this time I was already sprinting, trying to speed past my other competitors. The race flew by and so did I, leading the pack the entire time. In the final stretch I kept looking behind me, ensuring that no one was close enough to pass. I picked up the pace and sprinted the last portion of the race and, as I had hoped and prayed, I won. I won my first race ever, and I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.

From then on, I excelled in my cross country career, making it into the first heat races and working hard at practice. With each year my running improved and in tenth grade, I made the varsity team, which, in cross country terms, means you were one of the top seven girls on the team. To secure my place on varsity, I had to finish in the top seven spots in every race. I was usually the sixth or seventh girl… at least for awhile. 

The medals, the varsity jacket, the pride I felt after a race, was all great. Until my body decided to turn against me. During my high school years of cross country, starting my sophomore year, I had many injuries that came out of nowhere. I hurt my hip and had to endure physical therapy, throwing me off of my training. Then, I hurt my foot and had to wear a boot for weeks and, in turn, missed one of our championship races. Then, the last straw, my junior year, were my shins. My shin splints ached with every stride taken at practice and, after staying back on the elliptical while my team ran 14 miles at practice, I decided it just wasn’t worth it anymore.

I loved what I did. I loved the feeling of crossing the finish line and knowing that I gave it my all. When things started to fall apart, and my times in races started to get worse, I felt disappointed in myself but knew that I was not to blame. There was a race where my shins got the best of me and I fell down to the eighth spot on the team. Then, at a race in New York, my shin splints were so painful that I could barely finish the race. At this point, I knew that I needed to make a change.

I could have either stayed on the team (probably not varsity) and endure the pain from my shin splints or quit the team and not run my senior year. I was back and forth for a while, and running was my absolute passion, but I knew that it was in my best interest to focus on getting healthy. Continuing my running career would’ve done nothing but worsen my shin splints, and I could not bear it any longer. Quitting the team was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life, but I knew it would be worth it in the long run.

I wanted to be the best that I could be, but my shins thought otherwise. By taking my senior year off, I even stopped running recreationally for a while to try and get the pain to go down. After a few months, I started running again and it made me miss running competitively, but I have never regretted my decision, because by making it, I got myself back on track. This wasn’t the end of my life… it was just the beginning.

To this day, running is still my passion and always will be. I run regularly and someday soon, I hope to complete my first half marathon and, maybe someday, marathon. I know that I made the right decision by giving my legs a break. Even though my shin splints still hurt me sometimes, I know that things could have gotten worse.

Running has taught me that in life, things do not always work out as planned. It has taught me that there is more to life than just winning races, or finishing in the top seven. It has taught me that passions never die, and that stopping something doesn’t necessarily make you a quitter. Running has given me hope and has showed me that sometimes, you have to get knocked down to find motivation to get up again. Running, most importantly, has changed my life and shaped me into who I am today: motivated, confident and aware that sometimes, perfection exists only as an image in our dreams.

Allison Wisyanski is a junior English major and Writing minor from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is a featured writer for HCXU. Allison also writes for the Arts and Entertainment column for the Xavier Newswire. Her guilty pleasures are Nicholas Sparks novels, the color pink, and Nutella. She's a lover of travel and in her spare time, she enjoys to binge-watch JFK documentaries, shop, run, and soak up the sun.
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