What I've Learned From Being A Longtime Runner

When I was eight years old, I ran my first ever race. It was a mile long course, up and down Heartbreak Hill in Newton- a section of the Boston Marathon appropriately named for its torturous incline. While this one mile of road wasn't exactly as strenuous as the route the marathoners would take the next day, to me, it was a rite of passage. If I successfully ran and finished this race, I would be just like my brothers- all three of whom were beginning to be serious runners.

I finished the race in nine minutes and four seconds, easily out-sprinting the guy in the Fig Newton costume right at the end.

Prior to my racing days, I was an avid spectator of the Heartbreak Hill Road Race. 

Reminiscing about my days as a young runner, when everyone would get a medal no matter what, I find it hard to believe that I've been running for about 11 years. I can still picture that race in middle school when I broke seven minutes in the mile for the first time, and I still cringe at the memory of my first practice of high school cross country when I threw up and was too embarrassed to tell my coach about it.

Not only do my many memories of being a runner stick with me, but the lessons I've learned along the way- whether learned in my first race or my last- are something that I carry with me in each race and practice as I continue in my running career. Of course, there are countless stories I could tell about how I've learned to become a better runner and better person, but for now, here are just a few:

How to compete as an individual, but also how to work as a team. 

It's an incredibly common misconception to think that cross country and track are purely individual sports. And those who say they aren't team sports clearly don't participate in them. As a runner, you're meant to focus on your own personal growth- namely, improving your personal best time. But, at the same time, you might have to give up your spot in your favorite event (*cough* the two mile) so that someone else can compete because they're more likely to earn points there. And even in cross country, teammates are often physically competing next to one another- pushing each other to go faster or gain on that next opponent.  

Newton South Cross Country.

Edinburgh Uni Hare and Hounds

Progress can be measured in many different ways.

In one race during my sophomore year of high school, I was competing in the two mile, and went out way too fast for the first half (nearly breaking my personal one mile record) and fell into last place. Much to my surprise I finished the race having reached my longtime goal of breaking 13 minutes. This just goes to show that you can be last, first, or somewhere in the middle, and still be happy with your result.

A pretty decent race, even though this old lady may have out-kicked me.

Your teammates really do become your best friends.

There's something about trekking up an icy hill in the middle of the winter that makes you grow close to those who you endure such physical pain with. You'd think that competition would get in the way of these friendships, but most of the time, that little bit of competition only makes friendships grow stronger. Not to mention, overnight trips are the ultimate bonding experience. From jumping from bed to bed in the hotel rooms just for kicks, to lighting sparklers in Manchester (outside, of course!), to the countless embarrassing mirror selfies in running gear, some of my best memories haven't even been the ones where I've actually been running.

What a fun crew.

Man down. 

A life-changing experience.

It will always be a part of me. 

If I know one thing about running, it's that I'll never want to stop. Whether I'm competing, running for recreation, or doing it for my health, I'll always be a runner.

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