Why I Run: A high school runner’s perspective

Enjoy the essay.

Why I Run

I run for more reasons than there are stars in the sky as twilight chases us on a cool summer evening. I run, firstly, because it is simple but not easy. I run because it’s high and fierce and universal. I run because it makes me feel beautiful, whether or not I’m being watched. I run because when I’m out on the road, with but my shadow beating next to me, I never feel lonely.

I run for the physical feeling. Because I love it when my feet are pounding, and my legs are burning, and I am in total control of my body. I like to experience the pain of the hardest race I’ve ever run, when I realize just how far I can really push myself. I run for the times when the only thing keeping me going is my blazing desire, because my body has gone through all ten circles and back in the space of a few minutes. I run for the times when I just want to die, because surely death would be less painful than the steps I am forcing myself to take, and yet I don’t give up, and I don’t back down, I just keep running, and telling myself one more stride, and another, and another, until I am soaring, and it’s no longer an agony I’m making myself endure but a bliss I’m allowing myself to enjoy, and I figure I must have died, because this is heaven.

I run because often it’s the only thing that keeps me sane. Because after one of those bad days, I want to go to practice. Because I run and run and run and I become free. With each step, I slowly lose my problems. But I’m not running away from them—I’m just leaving them behind.

I run for those great moments, big and small. For when we are finishing a long workout at the Point, and we are running down that big hill and our legs are going faster and faster and we are rolling and we feel as though we will never stop and we are flying down the boardwalk and people are staring and thinking we should put more clothes on and nothing matters anymore. I run for lying in a star shape on the floor in the middle of the airport. For holding up a trophy and knowing that I helped make it happen. For great conversations on long bus rides, and laughing until I cry. For when a teammate has the race of their life and I can’t imagine that a hug has ever been so full of happiness, or selflessness, or exhilaration.

But there is one thing that I run for that is greater than them all. Nothing at all means anything compared to what they mean to me. When I’m racing, and I’m hurting, I’m not running for me, I’m running for them. I could quit on myself, but I would never quit on them— we are a family. We believe. When we set foot on that racecourse, we become tied together with the inexplicable bonds of a common love, a common goal, a common feeling. On a bad day, you may think the world is judging you. But them, they understand. When they say they know how you feel, they actually do. We cry together (often), we laugh together (always). We are there for each other, because we love each other. No matter what. Were I to have to choose only one reason for why I run, it would be but a second in time. Before every race, while we are doing the Hokey Pokey, there is an instant when I feel as though the earth stops. There is a moment when I hear nothing, and see nothing, and know nothing but them. It comes as we stand in that perfect circle, and we shout to “put your whole self in”. And I look around, and I meet the eyes of my team. And in that second, if there is anything in the world that I am unequivocally and irreversibly sure of, it is that when we step onto that path, we will be together, linked by something infinitely more powerful than the individual. Because the only way to survive the familiarly unpredictable, terrifyingly magnificent journey that is the next 20 minutes is to put our whole selves in, and never surrender.

This is why I run. Because I’ve realized that the miracle isn’t in my finishing place or time, or how good it felt, or even what it took to get there, because though all those things are wonderful and satisfying and difficult to attain, they aren’t extraordinary. The miracle I know is the presence of the brave and strong and beautiful friends beside me with every step, leaving not only transient footprints in the mud, but interminable ones on my heart.


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