A Runner's World

You think you know...but you have No Idea

Sunday, November 14, 2004

California Here We Come

"Out of respect for things that I was never destined to do, I have learned that my strengths are a result of my weaknesses, my success is due to my failures, and my style is directly related to my limitations" --Billy Joel

As the best Cross Country season of my life comes to a close, you would think I'd be relieved. For the next blessed week, I don't have to report to Ruth Lily at 3:30 everyday. I won't have to travel on weekends until February. And speedworkouts are in the NOT so near future.

While this is all good and well, and a great burden has been lifted off my shoulders, it was only lifted so that a different burden could be put in its place. The burden of reflection. Yes, I have more time to myself now that XC is over, but that leaves more time to reflect on the past season and reflecting for me is like eating pringles: once I start, I can't stop. Therefore, I have no choice but to ramble away to a blank screen at midnight on a Sunday after a weekend of doing no homework whatsoever. I should be studying, or sleeping, as either would be a more efficient use of my time, but I can't do either until I clear my head.

Life is often referred to as a journey. In runner terms, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Many people miss this concept and spend their time working hard to get from one destination from the next (i.e. graduation, promotion), but never take the time to enjoy and appreciate what they’ve learned along the way, or celebrate how far they’ve come as a person.

I am not one of those people.

What follows is a summary of a mini enlightenment I experienced in the last few years. I warn you that this may not make sense, when I write I tend to ramble and go on tangents but in the end I feel better so it doesn’t matter to me if I don’t make sense to you. In other words, continue reading at your own risk of confusion.
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From the summer of 2002 to the summer of 2004, I took several wrong turns in the marathon of my life, wrong turns that led me straight to huge hills labeled “Stress Fracture” “Tendonitis” and “Mono”. I grumbled and whined my way through stress fracture. During tendonitis, I began to formulate a few different paths to take, such as turning around and trying to go back to my first love: dance. As I stood in front of Mono, I threw a conniption fit, and cursed everything that be as I sat down to take off my running shoes, ready to chuck them into the woods where they would be gnawed on my gophers, squirrels, chipmunks, and various other creatures.

But half way through untying my shoes, I thought about my dad’s side of the family. The ones who gave up on their dreams, or some who never even started, simply because they weren’t dealt the best hand in life.

It’s easy for me to see that most of my athletic ability is inherited from that side of the family, but they don’t know it because they were so quick to give up and join the masses for one big pity party that lasts the rest of their lives. They're all cynical, ignorant, and just plain white trash due to their lack of experience in life. They chose it because it's easier, and because misery loves company, I suppose, but as Switchfoot says, We're meant to live for so much more. They lost themselves and I'm determined to never lose myself. No matter how hard the curveball life hits me with.

I'm sure you're all laughing at my dramatization of such a petty situation, I have to say I do realize that my injuries were far from being whacked with a curve ball....more like a flick on the ear in the great scheme of things, but they frustrated the hell out of me and it felt like my entire life was in shambles at the time.

The point is that as I stand and look back at the hills I’ve conquered in the past two years, I've come to the realization that I was never destined to be a cheerleader, or a sorority girl. It didn't matter how kick @$$ my routine had been for the junior high cheerleading tryouts, I wasn't going to make the team, because I was destined to be a runner.

I was destined for my quads to never fit into jeans that fit me everywhere else. I was destined for nasty, calloused, blistered, fungusy feet. I was destined to push my limits, to run until my head feels so light it might float away, but my legs feel so heavy I'm not sure I can take another step, let alone make it to the finish line where I stagger through the shoot to a clear piece of grass so I can dry heave until I either fall over or my parents or a teammate comes to drag me to the location of my training shoes so I can go run some more for a "cool down" even though I'm covered in goose bumps from dehydration.

So okay, it may not be pretty, and Lord knows runners don't get the glory, but I love it. Besides, I'm not one to mess with Destiny. If this is what God wants for me, I'll do my best, even if there are times when I don't understand where he's going with it...such as the two years from 2002 to 2004. Because I know that He IS going somewhere with it and this season was my reward for having that trust.

I needed those two years to learn how to persevere. I needed to fail so that I could learn how to succeed, and not take that success for granted. These are lessons that are valuable in all aspects of my life, not just running.

Now, I'm not even going to pretend for one second that I'm a great runner. Or even that I have the most talent on our team. I'm not and I don't and I accept that. But running has taught me to do the best that I can with what I have and to be satisfied with the outcome when I have done that. To know that there will always be someone worse than me and someone better than me, but that I should neither congratulate myself or berate myself for that. As a result, I'm happier and running better than ever before.

Running has also brought me the "girlie group" that I was so desperately trying to be a part of in my failed quests to be a cheerleader and a sorority girl. I love every one of the girls on the team. They've helped me so much this year with their support and encouragement that it brings me to tears just thinking about it. I think this team is probably better than any sorority I could have joined simply because these girls "get me" without any explanation. They feel my pain, my joy, and my passion for something that most people can't even begin to understand. Ironically enough, the phrase that is on my friend Jenna’s profile describing her sorority fits perfectly for our team. “Uindy XC Bitches: From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it”

So maybe the marathon of my life didn’t go quite as I planned it as a little girl, but in the end I know I’ve gotten everything I ever wanted and more. And now I’m more prepared for those curve balls, hills, bends in the road, whatever analogy you prefer. I’m so confident that I’d be willing to stamp BRING IT ON on my forehead.

Oh, and while most sorority girls will be working a summer job to pay for a vacation to the beach together...my girls and I will be running our way to a free trip to California next fall.

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