If you have ever run before, then you know how it feels to have your lungs burning up in your chest, your heart beating so fast you think you’ll have a heart attack, and your legs wobbling like jelly underneath you as you try and slog your way through the last mile. It’s not a great sensation, yet I literally do it for fun after school everyday for three months. This particular breed of torture is called Cross Country and, believe it or not, there are over 150 students at Valley High School alone who take part in it voluntarily!
I’m just kidding: for some reason, I love running. Most likely because it makes me feel like I’m flying; and when I run down a hill, that the Earth’s gravity cannot chain me down.
It has taken a long time for me to reach this point, however. I vividly remember my first eighth grade cross country meet. I stared at the seemingly endless corn maze that was our course and shuddered at what I would feel like at the end. I made it through those two miles in 18 minutes and now I run 4 miles at practice on a daily basis.
My sophomore year, I developed a stress fracture on my right tibia quite early in the season. The nice orthopedic doctor gave me a boot to wear all the time. No running, he said. My soul felt crushed, but I was still part of the team, wasn’t I? So the entire season, while my team ran, I rode on a stationary bike for 16, sometimes 20 miles a day alone with my thoughts while “Radio Ga Ga” blasted in my earbuds.
At the cross country banquet, I was voted “Most likely to win RAGBRAI” (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa).
My Junior year, I came back to run again. I was slow; slow enough that when finished my first practice, the Cross Country moms giving out popsicles had already left. Obviously, it was a really fun experience to watch my friends eat bomb pops when I still felt like passing out. I am getting better again though, slowly but surely! I can rely on a less-than-30-minute 5k now.
Cross country taught me tenacity- to reach into myself when all seemed hopeless and grab that last fragment of energy and push myself over the finish line. It has taught me to persevere,- to push my limits to breaking and tearing down subconscious mental barriers. Most importantly, it helped me accept my inadequacies and to do something to be part of the bigger picture, part of the capital-T-Team. I love the camaraderie that I enjoy with my teammates, and my Valley XC shirt makes me proud of my perseverance.
Right now though, I am going for that chocolate milk.
Vidya is a senior from Des Moines, Iowa. This is her second year on IYAB and her third year volunteering with YVC. Apart from volunteering, she loves to draw and read as well as play golf and run cross country. She is super excited for this year, despite the new hurdles thrown our way.