I was a nerd in high school.
Straight up nerd.
I did mock trial and history fairs and perhaps the nerdiest of them all, Academic Decathlon, a ten-event scholastic competition that required me to willing give up a weekend to take tests and give interviews and speeches.
So I don’t deny my nerd title. In fact, I embrace it.
Yet in spite of my nerdiness and my ambition, there was someone at my high school who felt that my lack of athletic ability did not warrant my standing as the top student of my class.
Yes, I did not run on a team, or do layups in the gym, or cheer with pom-poms on the sidelines, but I wasn’t a complete homebody spending my days knee deep in books and essay writing. I exercised regularly in high school, just never as part of an organized group. Sure I may not have been an official athlete for my school, but I challenged the idea that I lacked athleticism and therefore was not well-rounded enough to be top of the class.
His opinion didn’t really matter, but it definitely left an impression on me, and it’s one I often think of when I finish a big race or a tough track workout. I don’t need to prove anything to this man, and yet sometimes I wish this guy could know about all my accomplishments in just two years of running.
Waiting until my final semester of college, I registered for my first half marathon and signed up for a running group. Since I submitted payment for that first race, I have accumulated hundreds of miles and run multiple races, including several 5Ks, an 8K, a 10-miler, four half marathons and a full 26.2 miles. I have learned that as beneficial as track workouts are to improving my speed, there is no way I could have run around a track every day as part of a high school team. Above all, have pushed and surprised myself in more ways than I thought possible.
Though I did not do organized sports when I was younger (besides a few years of middle school basketball), I did not doom myself to a life of sedentariness. In a weird twist of events, I have actually become the athlete of the family. Since my sister no longer plays lacrosse or soccer and attributes to early morning summer practices for her disdain in running, I am now the active one. As my sister tweeted out on the day of MCM:
Running has taught me that you can be an athlete at any age. I am impressed every time I meet with my running crew and hear stories from runners about when they started running. For some, it began in high school and went through college and now. For others, they found the joy of running later in life and now can’t imagine a life without it. I see runners young and old on the trails. We may not have age in common, but us being out there together puts us in the same group of people who enjoy travelling at a faster pace.
A part of me thinks that had I run competitively when a student that I would likely not be running now. Having to run versus wanting to run are very different things. I love that I can just go out and set my own goals without the pressure of a coach or a team relying on me to hit a certain pace or distance. Choosing to run is a personal decision and I never regret those moments in my sneakers. The encouragement from my running group is amazing, but the personal satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment trumps it all.
I may have gotten a late start in life, but now I can’t imagine a future without running. And lots of loads of laundry to wash my sweat stains of accomplishment.