Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Running a Race Against Yourself

When the soles of my running shoes have worn too flat for me to take another step, my pair of white Nikes is going straight to my personal Hall of Fame. The shoes are a guaranteed first-ballot induction, and they will join other relics from my life such as my first fake ID (Steve Silhan, a Michigan resident), my St. Christopher traveling medal and the little basketball necklace I wore around my neck on my first day of pre-kindergarten.

Yet just two years ago, when I purchased these running shoes, their odds of one day earning a place among the other immortal objects of my life’s journey were decidedly long. Running had never really been my thing.

Always my least favorite element of any team sport, I gave it a fair attempt but made sure to save my best effort for something else. Running was too repetitive, too lonely and too boring. Each time I would start, it would only take me about 10 steps to remember how much I hated the whole concept. An asthmatic, I would feel a burning in my chest that was practically begging me to stop, which I inevitably always did.

My lifelong aversion to running peaked at my New York high school. Several times a trimester, one of our activities during gym class involved running around the Central Park Reservoir. For students like me, this was no fun at all. The actual distance was only a little over 1.6 miles, but after a day of calculus and chemistry it could certainly seem endless.

Though I was a good athlete, I never put in maximum effort for these trips around the reservoir. This was partially because of my disdain for running, but also a result of a little temerity as to what my race time might be if I left it all out there on track. I thought that giving a 100 percent effort would have been a backhanded validation of a sport of which I was an outspoken critic.

But two summers ago my entire outlook changed for a very simple reason: I needed something to do, and my options were limited. My summer job left me with a considerable amount of free daytime hours, and as much as I loved watching “Saved by the Bell” reruns all day, my body yelled at me to get off the couch.

With my friends all working day jobs, there was no one to around to play basketball, and I was not inclined to pay grotesque membership fees to join a gym. I briefly considered signing up for an old man’s softball league, but as fun of an experience as that might have been, I realized that I needed to find something that would keep me in shape as well as occupied.

By the end of May, I decided that I was truly going to challenge myself – I was going to make an honest attempt at running regularly. Something inside me snapped and told me that 19 years old was too old to continue making excuses. I crossed off my asthma, my apathy and any potential inclement weather from the list of acceptable excuses against the idea. There was no reason not to run. I charged my iPod, bought a new pair of running shoes, and headed off to the track each morning.

My unwavering mental resolve did little to make the first steps any easier, but I soon discovered that the wonderful thing about a sport like running is that it is not long before you experience real improvement. Soon I genuinely relished my new morning routine. Running was never my first choice when my alarm went off, but it was easy to take pride in the knowledge that I was working towards an achievable goal.

I gradually discovered that the hardest strides to take were not those on the third, fourth or 15th lap, but rather the few paces of walking which occurred each time I stopped. I wondered if I had really just put forth my best effort, and if there was any way that I would be able to make myself go a little farther and a little faster the next day.

I enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself to new heights, and the sense of accomplishment that came with each passing mile.

The entire culture of running is individualistic by nature, and until two summers ago I had never quite been ready for its demands. When it is just you against the track, there is no coach urging you to keep going, and no teammates to let down if you stop.

But just as the effort is yours to exert, the achievement is yours alone. It is exhilarating at the end of a run to realize you were not carried around the track by the star quarterback or precocious point guard – it is something you did entirely by yourself.

Sometime soon, before those shoes give out, I am heading back into New York and am taking another crack at that reservoir. It matters little that the 1.6 miles no longer represent a daunting distance. What I am interested in is the experience of crossing the finish line after finally giving the dirt track my absolute best effort, with nothing to hide, and no excuses to be made.

It’s going to feel pretty good.

Chris Seneca is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at SLOW MOTION appears every other Tuesday in HOYA SPORTS.

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