November 6, 2011

XC 2011

Cross Country.
Those two words have provided one of the most challenging experiences for me this year. I've never run competitively before. I've run for a lot of reasons, but my biggest competition has always been myself and my goals were always more focused on distance then time. But jumping into the world of college running has shaken up everything that I ever thought I knew about running. I thought running half marathons made me a runner. I thought I knew what it meant to give running everything you had and then some. I thought I'd experienced the guts and the glamour. But over the course of this season I've discovered that I really don't know anything at all about this sport that I love.
It's been a tough season. I started it super exhausted and fighting what we think was mono, and then at the beginning of October I messed up my SI Joint, which has led to some crazy pain in my hip. 6 weeks later and it's still bothering me a lot. I haven't taken a break training, but I haven't done that great either. And I haven't been competing, at least not in the races.
Now I know what it's like to be demoralized.
I know what it's like to be so frustrated with your performance that you just want to stop.
I know what it's like to feel inadequate.
And for the first time in my life, I know what it's like to have a team come up behind you and say, "We've got your back no matter how good or bad you run. Just don't stop."
That's what cross country has taught me.
That's what I'm trying so hard to learn.
Don't quit.
I've been so frustrated because I feel like after investing all the time into practice and focusing on running, it would be great to hit a Saturday and say, "I'm ready to race."
But even today, on our last meet of the season, I came prepared to race and ran the warm-up mile in a lot of pain. I wasn't ready. Mentally, I was doing good. Physically, I knew that it was going to hurt a lot. My very smart runner friend told me, "I hate to say it, but this is a part of running Mandy. Knowing when to stop running today so that you can run tomorrow. By tomorrow I mean tomorrow and the day after that, and the day after that..."
I want to run tomorrow.
I want to run for the rest of my life.
So I stopped today.
If it wasn't for this team, these friends who are so passionate about running that they can't help but inspire me to want to try a million times harder, I wouldn't have been able to learn so well what it means to keep running. They have encouraged me in a million different ways, and if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be able to look forward to track season with high hopes.
Get healthy. Get healed. And get good.
That's my goal. I love this sport with all of my heart. It pushes you. It's raw. It's brutal. It's collapsing at the end of a run. It's pounding on dirt and grass and track until you can't breath but you still can't stop. Running is testing your mind as much as your body. Cross country isn't about how well you can catch or throw a ball, it isn't about a short sprint across the field, it's about the miles ahead of you.
It's my allegory for life.
If I didn't know the success of running, I wouldn't have joined this cross country team. If I hadn't had crossed the finish line after 13.1 miles, I would never have become a part of SNU athletics. But if I hadn't had known the defeat of cross country, the physical, the mental, the "is this what I really want?" defeat that I've faced this fall, I wouldn't love this sport as much as I do. Because only in the defeat have I realized that this is something that I really want to keep doing. I don't want to be in last place, but if last place is what it takes to reignite my passion for trying my hardest, then I'll crawl across the line at the end of the day. If failure is the only way that I'm going to learn perseverance, then I'll take it. If my teammates are the only people who can pound it into my head that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, then I want to learn the lesson.
That's what this season has been for me. A season of raw emotions and hard lessons. A season of rediscovering what it is that keeps me running. A season of learning how to be the friend that my friends have been for me when I've hit low points. This season wasn't anything like what I expected it to be like. I never expected to get so beaten down by circumstances that I didn't have any control over. And I most definitely never expected to meet a group of teammates that have totally stolen my heart and encouraged me each and every day. It's been hard, but it has been by far worth it.


Difficult things take a long time, impossible things a little longer.
- Author Unknown