Even though I’ve crossed the finish line almost 30 times, I never remember doing it.
My body tries to slow down, but my empty mind can’t function. I dump water on my head and take slow, timid steps in an effort to remain upright. This feeling of exhausted accomplishment is why I’ve fallen in love with cross country.
I started running at the beginning of my sophomore year. I wanted to get in shape, but I didn’t realize how brutal 3.1 miles can be. I also didn’t realize how rewarding this distance is. I’d never run before 10th grade. In fact, I would avoid the treadmill at all costs; running a mile felt like voluntary death. But at the requests of a boy I liked and my best friend, I decided to try running.
At the first cross country practice, I’d just come back to Flagstaff (6,910-foot altitude) from Arapahoe, N.C. (75-foot altitude). The 5-mile run, which included a hill that was about 200 meters long, laden with miniature boulders, and appeared almost vertical, took me over an hour.
I couldn’t move the next day because I was so sore.
But by the end of that 2015 season, I placed eighth in Division IV of the Arizona State Championship meet and 21st at the Junior Olympic National meet.
When my parents separated at the beginning of 11th grade, running became even more important to me. I used it as an escape from the confusion my parents were causing. The 2016 season was my year. I knew what I was getting myself into, and I came into the season stronger than ever. I was motivated.
As a junior, I realized that I was good at running and learned how to push myself at every practice. I was elected varsity team captain. At each race, I told myself that I was running away from three things: the six APs I was taking, injuries and my parents. That season, I placed 15th at the state meet, 24th at nationals, and set my personal record at 20:13.0.
These two successful seasons showed me the payoffs of dedication. I attended every practice, even the optional ones at 6 a.m. on Wednesdays, and pushed myself with each drill we did.
It was completely worth it. I was running incredibly strong, placing in the top 10 percent at each meet, and I wasn’t injured.
My senior year of high school cross country just ended, and I struggled. I didn't run over the summer because I was injured, and no matter how hard I push myself at practice, my race times felt super slow. I closed out my high school cross country career placing 93rd at the state D-IV meet.
Even though I had my worst of three school seasons this year, the lessons that I’ve learned from cross country -- perseverance, devotion and responsibility -- have shaped my personality. Running has become not only my passion but also my lifestyle.