Running the half
Ciara Hopkinson | Tuesday, April 10, 2018
I’ve been a runner since the fall of seventh grade. I ran cross country for six years and track for five, and my running career was similar to that of a lot of girls. I was pretty good in middle school, ended up running varsity freshman year, stagnated sophomore year and suddenly declined during my junior and senior seasons. The combination of puberty and an increasing workload often creates a situation in which the body simply cannot adjust in those years of high school. It was a hard pill to swallow; I could not understand why my body would not obey me anymore. It seemed like I just couldn’t make my legs run as they had in the past. By the time my senior season of cross country ended, I had accepted that I would never be fast again.
Last year, I signed up for the Holy Half and began a rigorous training regimen with two friends who were both better runners than I. Intimidated by the distance of the half, I adopted a discipline in my training I hadn’t been able to develop since I stopped running with a team. I ran by myself five days a week without fail, and I never let myself find excuses to skip our Sunday long runs. The first few Sundays were rough; I huffed along a few steps behind, listening to my friends talk and contemplating slowing down and letting them break away from me. But the thought of running 10 miles alone was more than I could bear, so I stuck with them and finished every run no more than a few meters behind. Without my realizing it, running became something I did for myself, seeing how much faster I could make this mile, how much farther I could get in a set amount of time. And when I finished the half with an average mile time of 7:40, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.
When someone asked me what my proudest achievement was a few weeks later, I realized it was the Holy Half. It may seem silly, but that race was the redemption for my last two years of high school. Running had been a big part of my identity and when my times started to falter, I lost that part of myself. In training for the half, I regained that identity. Though I’m obviously not the fastest runner and I never will be, I know I control my own success. Running has regained its status as my favorite escape, something I can do with friends but often prefer to do alone, relishing the silence and the rare feeling of solitude that allows me to focus on myself for an hour each day.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.