“Maybe Cross Country Just Isn’t Your Thing.”

It was the summer before my sophomore year of high school. August 2005. I had just finished my first time trial ever in my first year of cross country. The results of the time trial would determine who got to go to training camp. The first 20 girls would be invited; the remaining would continue summer practices at the high school.

I finished 53rd.

Out of 56 girls.

Ouch.

I knew I wasn’t fast, but I was proud of myself: I had been showing up for practice 6 days a week all summer long to be part of the cross country team. I wasn’t an athlete; I was a musician and proven nerd. I sang in Indianapolis Children’s Choir. Yes, I had played community soccer growing up, but doesn’t just about everyone? That summer, I had proved that if I set my mind to it, I could conquer anything.

The elation didn’t last long, however. When our evening time trial was finished, I walked to where my parents were standing. I made some vague remarks about how I wanted to keep getting faster when – and I remember this distinctly – my dad gently said,

“Maybe cross country just isn’t your thing.”

Criticism, no matter how it’s delivered, can have either a disastrous or incredible effect. I had two choices that evening: One, “Maybe you’re right, dad. Maybe it’s not for me.” and two, “Maybe you’re right dad. But maybe not. I’m going to keep at it until I know for sure.”

That evening, I’m glad I chose the latter. Over the next year, I got faster, I joined the track team, and the next summer, I qualified to attend training camp.

Even though I know my dad meant no harm, it’s amazing how one simple line can stick with you for nearly a decade now. Tonight, while doing a speed workout on the treadmill, those words of doubt came trickling back: “Your leg shouldn’t hurt this much. You have terrible form. Maybe running just isn’t for you.”

But that’s the glorious thing about running: No matter how fast or how slow you go, no matter if you run 1 minute, 1 mile, or 1 hour, no matter if you run once a month or twice a day… you are a runner.

Yes, there will always be things to improve. Yes, there will always be that PR that you want to break. Yes, some days it’s going to hurt. A lot.

But when you keep going, you prove something to yourself:

Yes. I am a runner.

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