I can't remember the first time I enjoyed a run. I made it through high school as an average participant in gym class, my sub-8 minute mile earning me an A but serving as the most effort i put into the sport each year. I balked at the idea of track and field, instead preferring to put miles in in the swimming pool. I did a 5K with my family sometime near the end of high school, but all I remember is feeling miserable as I struggled up my town's small hills during an 80-degree morning in July.
It probably wasn't until college that I found myself on a treadmill, actually smiling as I pushed myself to keep going beyond what I'd thought possible. It's not surprising that the stress of higher education pushed my into a new form of exercise: a recent study found that for every one-hour increase in weekly physical activities, students’ GPAs went up by 0.06.
I'll admit my newfound desire to hit the treadmill came from a mix of reasons: one, a hope to drain some of the anxious energy that I began to feel at Northwestern, surrounded by highly driven and competitive students who couldn't help but contribute to the stressful atmosphere. Second, I fell into a pattern of self-betterment driven by those around me. In many ways, surrounding myself with people who valued exercise was imperative for a freshman trying to find her place in the world, tempted by unhealthy food and habits. But my miles on the treadmill (and later outside) were tinted with an unhealthy desire to better my image on the outside, rather than my health on the inside.
As the years went on, I settled into a rhythm at NU that kept me healthy and happy, and running played a major role in it. I found myself hitting peaks and valleys—some months I spent hours pounding the pavement until I burnt out, then spent months trying to convince myself to get back into it. The highlight of my growing relationship with running was a half marathon completed the summer before my senior year. I trained in my best capacity and crossed the finish line with a sense of exhilaration that I've been hard pressed to find in environments other than races. I remember smiling through the first seven miles of the race, wondering to myself if I had *finally* become on of those people who enjoyed running, needed it even. (Those thoughts disappeared quickly during miles 9-11, believe me.)
Despite years of back and forth, I realize now that running will always play a major role in my life. I will never be someone who needs to run everyday to get rid of stress (though i'll never stop hoping for that!) but I can't go a week without feeling antsy and ready to hit the road. Part of my passion lies in my competitive spirit—signing up for and finishing races has taught my more about myself than I ever thought possible.
Which is why I'm finally completing my second half marathon this spring—the Airbnb Brooklyn Half. Years of anxiety over finishing faster than my first race kept me from signing up for a second, but I've finally come to terms with the idea that running isn't about being perfect. It's about getting out there and putting one foot in front of the other, even when you don't think it's possible to take one more step.
I'm even more excited to be running this race for Run For Kids, a wonderful organization that helps keep kids on track an offers the support they need to stay healthy and happy (yes, the very reason running means so much to me.) Along with my physical training for the race, I'm emotionally dedicating myself to run for someone besides myself, so being a part of this team is monumentally important to me.
If you'd like to support Run For Kids and my fundraising efforts, you can learn more here.