“My coach once told me that running Cross Country is like peeing yourself in a dark suit. It gives you a warm feeling all over, but nobody notices.”
-The first line to my common app essay that got me admitted into THE Ohio State University.
I should probably follow this statement up by clarifying that I did not spend the rest of my application discussing bodily excretions. Instead, I wrote about my Why. My ability to find reason and purpose behind working hard with high integrity, even when nobody notices. My ability to love what I’m passionate about, even if what I’m passionate about is outside of the realm of normalcy. My ability to slip my shoes on every morning and work my tail off without taking the easy route.
My ability to make my Why greater than my Why Not.
Fast-forward four years to last fall– the B1G Cross Country Course was at Roy Griak, in Minnesota. At Griak, the incredible beauty of the course is equally matched by it’s tenacious difficulty. Immediately before the 3000 meter mark, athletes come around a turn and are faced with a hill that runs alongside a bike path. The night before B1G’s, my College Coach told us that on this hill, in order to keep focus, we had to remember our Why. She didn’t care what our why was, it just needed to be greater than our why not.
In a sport where people commonly ask if, “Cross Country involves snow skis,” and question, “How many laps are in an 800,” my Why has nothing to do with the attention I gain from excelling. With the exception of the small portion of the population that actually follows distance running (most of the time, these people are runners themselves), nobody notices. Much like that warm feeling all over that my high school coach talked about, My Why has everything to do with the way running makes me feel, and nothing to do with people noticing.
Recently, a former college teammate (S/O to Christine Fredrick) asked me to write a piece on my Why. She is putting together a website and asking distance runners of all ages, levels, and distances to share their why. Her goal is to inspire, give hope, and encourage.
because I am convinced that the joy that Jesus gives me through racing is the closest feeling to invincible that exists this side of heaven. That feeling of crossing the line, looking up at the clock and thinking, %$#@- I just did that! That moment of powering down the final 80 meters and feeling completely and totally untouchable. That fleeting second when a chance that is taken results in a dream becoming a reality.
because I am constantly inspired by the work ethic, positive energy, and grit of those surrounding me. Whether talking to high school teammates, college teammates, or competitors– their passion for the sport, competitive spirit, and resounding encouragement is contagious.
because I crave the feeling of the boards beneath my feet on the turns of a 200 meter banked track. To hear the snap of the shank plate of my spike as it pops off the mondo in Lane One is music to my ears. I love surging through the curves with power, gaining energy returned from that track as I let gravity do it’s work.
because that feeling of triumph after winning my first 100 yard dash Jingle Bell Kids Fun Run when I was in Kindergarten is the same feeling I still get to this day after races. It’s that same feeling I’ll have when I’m 25, when I’m 35, and when I’m 50. That feeling is universal.
because I like proving people right. I am thankful to have an incredible support team from my family, to coaches, to medical, to the community at large. I want to show them how thankful I am for their belief in me and my dreams by proving them right when I am out there racing.
because the voices in my head whispering, “What if this doesn’t work out?” are silenced by the counter, “But what if it does?” I never want to look back and wonder what would have happened if I took one more chance, one more risk, one more wager.
because I live for the days when my head tells me that there’s no way I can make it another 400 meter rep up the hill, but my heart convinces me otherwise. My body is capable of so much more than my mind gives it credit for, and I want to test and push my limits every single time I lace up my shoes.
because even on the hard days, I remind myself of the moments of victory. The moments that have given me a chance to continue to chase a dream. The moments that make every single low point worth every single sacrifice that I choose to make for this sport.
because I know that the dreams that God has put on my heart through running are impossible without my unwavering faith in Him. I have hope in the future and the gospel of Jesus. Jesus gives us the courage to get back up time and time again after we fall flat on our faces, and He delights in our resiliency. I believe that God opens doors, but sometimes it takes years and years of us continuing to kick and fight while trusting that the door will eventually fall before he finally lets it open.
because my Why is greater than my Why Not. Because when I’m trudging up that hill right before 3000 meters at the Griak Course, I am able to look pain square in the eyes and say, “its all worth it because maybe, just maybe, this will be my breakthrough day.” Because when I’m standing on the starting line, nervous in anticipation, I remind myself that Jesus casts out all fear, and He has given me another chance to do what I love. Because it doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice to go to bed at 10:00 and wake up at 6:00 when other 20-some year old’s are out living it up on High Street. Because it is an honor and privilege every single time I put one foot in front of the other and am able to push myself further than I ever thought possible.
I do not run so that people notice, I run for the warm feeling all over. And that is the Why that keeps me going, that overpowers every Why Not that I could possibly ever think of.
I run because my Why is greater.
PS- If anyone is interested in sharing their Why, go to Christine’s website and reach out to her here!