Photograph by Shane Hunter
My love of running began when I was in elementary school. Even before I was competing for the fastest mile time around our tiny track for the fitness tests, I equated running with freedom. Once, when my mom finally caught me in our backyard and put me in the car, I made eye contact with her in the rear view mirror and said, "Mommy, you may control my body. But I control my mind. And in my mind I'm still running through the backyard." I was five years old.
Through my childhood, I played soccer and danced. Eventually, my love of being filthy, wearing cargo shorts and tee shirts, not doing my hair and yes, love of running meant that I eschewed the world of dance for outdoor activities (that, thankfully, did not have an entire wall of mirrors staring back at me the entire time). Once soccer got to the point where most young girls either quit playing AYSO or go competitive, I realized that my favorite parts of the game involved running up and down the field. So I found a home in cross country in seventh grade.
In eighth grade, I was voted captain by my teammates despite being incredibly reserved. Freshman and sophomore year of high school I took a little break, having an understanding with the notoriously tough but incredible head coach of the Oak Ridge team that I would be back. Cross country in high school gave me some of the toughest challenges of my life, but I chalk up a good percentage of my mental and physical toughness to that era. One of my biggest accomplishments to this day was making varsity on an incredibly talented, competitive team my senior year. And thank God I did run those last two years: after I officially decided to go to Maryville College, the cross country coach called and asked if I would run for them. I happily accepted the (non scholarship, DIII, volunteer based) offer and ran all four years on the collegiate level.
When I'm not running, there is an almost physical pull towards the sport. My brain and body practically chant "Go on a run!" at me until I acquiesce and lace up my shoes. It doesn't matter to me if it is 80 degrees and 90 percent humidity. If the hunger strikes, I must answer. It's impossible to explain to people who don't have the bug, but usually I tell them, "Once you can run four miles comfortably, you'll be addicted forever." I do enjoy the contrarian nature of the exercise. The question of "Why the hell do I enjoy this?" that sometimes comes up in the first few steps is quickly answered by the pure zen I have by the second mile. It's blissful, torturous fun.
Despite my mental obsession with running, I never quite got fully immersed in the culture. I still run in shorts from high school. I only recently got an Apple watch and a few apps to track my runs. Up until this point, my answer to the call was simply heading out for as long as I wanted to then coming home.
But something changed. I miss the team atmosphere. I miss working as hard as I possibly could on workouts and seeing the results in my race times. There's a nostalgic glow around memories of my lungs burning, the elation I felt when I kicked it at the finish line. So I'm racing again. I want to hit a goal that was somewhat at odds with the more mid-distance speed training I did in college: I want to run a half marathon. In the midst of that, I'll probably drop in a few trail races and 5ks for fun, but the half is the real test.
I wanted to tell this story because it is a huge part of my life that has but a small outlet. My roommate and I are training for the same half, but beyond that I don't have a lot of people to share this passion with currently. As far as what that looks like for the blog, I expect to introduce more training content, gear and trail discussions and overall updates about what is going on in my running life. After all, if there was ever a quiet kind of sport, it'd be this one.