Note: Adana Goney is a junior majoring in elementary education at Tennessee Technological University. She wrote this story about how she took up running for her English class. The professor gave the paper a grade of “Excellent” and entered it into a pending campus-wide essay contest. Adana has kindly allowed me to publish the story here.
I remember the first day. There was a calm April wind that seemed to welcome me into the woods. The sun was brightly shining down on my face, and the pleasant smell of early blooming honeysuckles filled the air. After just recently losing my grandpa, I was trying to cope with the emptiness that I felt inside. I laced up my shoes and gazed at the trail before me. The first steps were the hardest. I guess that is how it is with anything; but, before I knew it I had forgotten about the sadness that had flooded my heart for months. I was mesmerized by the peace that filled me and awestruck by the beauty of nature that surrounded me. Yes, I was in love with running.
In the months that followed the more I ran, the more I realized the impact running was having on my life. It was more than just the forty-five pounds I had lost since my shoes had first met the trail. Running was becoming my entertainment. It was the activity that distracted my mind from the chaos around me. Still to this day there is nothing more refreshing or more energizing than the afternoon run. Running is what connects me to myself, while also serving as my escape from the worry and stress around me, my stability in uncertain times, and my encourager on days that I am feeling down.
“Don’t shut yourself off.” Those were a few of the last words my grandpa ever said to me. He knew he was dying. So did I. He also knew how I would deal with his loss, and he was right. My heart was brimming with hurt, and I could not seem to find the words to describe my pain. That was the beautiful thing about running. I did not have to say anything. I just had to run. The farther I went, the stronger I became. The longer I stayed on the trail, the more my heart would heal.
Over the last two years, I have relied on running when dealing with stress. From being nervous about leaving my small hometown and moving away to a place where I did not know anyone, to being so uncertain about what the future may hold, running has gotten me through it. Despite what obstacles are thrown at me during the day, I know that in the afternoon the trail will always be waiting, and with every pounding step, worry and stress will evaporate amongst the trees.
However, many times situations in life require us to make decisions. During these times, I know that a run to let go of my stress is not going to be enough. At the end of the day, I am still going to have to make a choice. Running helps me do that too. It is almost surreal, but as I run, my mind becomes clearer and I begin to see the situation in a new light. I often see what decision needs to be made by the end of my run.
Life can be a startling ride sometimes. You never know what is going to happen next. For instance, I had my entire life planned out at the age of eighteen. I was to graduate from a small Christian university and then I would finally experience my life-long dream of teaching. After that, I would settle down in a gated community where I would raise my perfect family. Now, two years later, I found myself having recently transferred to Tennessee Technological University, the last place I was ever going to attend. Oddly enough, I absolutely love it. Though I am still pursuing my goal of becoming a teacher, I have learned the hard way that things change, some change over time and some over night.
Yet, running never changes. My plans will change. My goals will change. I will change, but the act of running remains the same. It is the pure definition of stability, at least in my life. Yes, the physical world in which I run will even change as the seasons come and go. However, it does not matter if the trees are full of golden and amber leaves, or if they are bare with trunks covered in snow. I can still run. The conditions will change. I may even have to run through the rain, but I always have the choice of lacing up my shoes and starting my journey.
Running also has served as my personal encourager. There are days where I feel like I have failed in many ways. We all have days like that, when nothing seems to go right. Just when I am feeling my lowest, I reflect back on how far running has brought me. It has transformed my life and introduced me to a new and refreshing side of myself.
Before I began to run, I considered myself to be quite the studious individual. Sure, I had wonderful friends and family who I thoroughly enjoyed being around, but my primary focus was on school. Running taught me that I could still be a straight “A” student and enjoy other hobbies. It has given an unexplainable appreciation for nature and the world around me. It has also connected me with the various organizations and fellow runners that I have met while participating in numerous 5ks and even coaching a Girls on the Run team. Running has shown me the beauty that can be found in stepping out of our comfort zones.
When I first started to run, I was not looking to become a runner. In fact, I , like most others, thought that to be a runner one must have a fast pace, a lean body, and a superhuman level of endurance. However, I quickly discovered that my physical body and poor athletic abilities were not holding me back. It was my determination, dedication, and discipline that piloted me forward.
Running is a daily activity in my life. It is as though it keeps my entire world in balance. Every time I start my run, I am always reminded of that first day, those first few steps, when I began this beautiful journey to a better life. I was searching for something to get my mind off the pain in my heart, and what I discovered was a entire new side of myself. Running has made me a stronger and more well rounded individual. For that I will forever be grateful. Not only did it aide me in overcoming my grandpa’s death, but running also empowered me to face each new day with a more positive outlook on life.
Note: This is Adana’s story in her words and not mine. If you like it, let her know. You can reach Adana on Facebook or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @AdanaGoney