I was fourteen years old the first time I tried running as a form of exercise. I was soft and a little pudgy in that way adolescent girls often are, and had been voted “Least Likely to Sweat” by my family. Even so, I borrowed my boyfriend’s sweats and a tee shirt, and with his heartfelt support and encouragement every step of the way, made it exactly a quarter of a mile. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done. I didn’t realize it then, but deciding to take that short run would take me much, much farther than a quarter mile.
I’ve always been fascinated by how one decision can affect the rest of your life. Some decisions obviously have far reaching implications, such as the decision to get married or have a child. It’s the decisions you had no idea about at the time that interest me most.
As a high school girl, my perspective on decision making was decidedly skewed. I was certain what outfit I chose to wear on a given day could either make or ruin the rest of my life (or at the very least, the rest of my day) but I truly didn’t realize the impact deciding to run would have.
That decision didn’t come easily. My freshman year of high school I was completely put off running when the cross country coach informed me races were three miles long. Three miles? Forget it! I didn’t give running another thought for the next year and a half. I would’ve been happy to leave running to runners and to only run when chased. However, at that point most of my friends, as well as my boyfriend, were runners. I saw how much fun they seemed to be having, and I envied the easy camaraderie they shared as teammates. I wanted in.
I figured track might not be so bad because you didn’t have to run nearly as far. Heck, the longest race was two miles, one whole mile less than cross country! So my decision to join the track team found me huffing and puffing around my boyfriend’s neighborhood, gutting my way through my very first run.
As it turns out, track season lasted longer than the relationship with my boyfriend did (though I am happy to say he later became a dear friend) but I was now running down a path that would forever change my life. Running influenced where I went to college, the friends I made, even the man I married. Running gave me a sense of purpose, a sense of toughness, a sense of pride.
The mindset I developed as a distance runner got me through childbirth as well as many other challenges and tribulations throughout my life. To this day, I think best and pray best when running, as though the movement of my legs and feet sets my mind and spirit free.
And each time I tie on my running shoes I wonder where the run, and the decisions I make, will take me.