Running through the wooded trail, I focus on the gentle pounding of my heart, as blood pumps through the veins in my temples. Sarah’s soft, quick strides remind me of my responsibility to look after the well-being of my teammates, which fills me with a sense of leadership. I haven’t experienced this feeling in several months, moments wrapped in solitude and exercise-induced joy. A moment when I can let my worries fade away as I continue to move forward. Sarah and I exit the woods and pick up the pace on a downhill. Observing the cars that rush past us, I wish everyone understood my perspective about the sport of running. Do the drivers pity us for physically taxing ourselves, or do they see us as young teens who celebrate their health by running? I define myself by the latter perspective, and as Sarah and I approach the bottom of the downhill, we pick up the pace around a curve in the sidewalk. I breathe in deeper, as every breath helps me let go of trivial matters that have been weighing on me lately. Over the voices in my head that remind me that I am strong and healthy, I can’t hear the cries of worries that once begged for me to listen.This sport is the most effective form of therapy, an easy way to bond with others, and a “pick-me-up” when stress feels overwhelming.
With every stride, it becomes easier to judge the aspects of my life that I need to let go of versus those that I should hold dear. Running embodies progress, optimism, humility, and strength. And I am ever grateful for the countless ways it has served me. I will continue to run, strengthen myself on a physical and emotional level, and spend more time with people who value me. I will continue to set goals, encourage and love my teammates, thank my coaches for all the time and energy they invest in helping me become a more efficient athlete. But the goals that my team has helped me achieve extend well beyond the physical accomplishments I will reach. Because of this sport and all those who support me, I am happier, healthier, and overwhelmed with gratitude. My team is one more reason why I get excited to step onto the track every day, let sunshine lift my spirits, exchange positive thoughts with other athletes. So as Sarah and I made our way back to school, the broken parts of me started to repair themselves. I could finally see clearly again.