If you were to have asked me six months ago about doing cross country, I would have told you that I would never do it. Little did I know that I would be sitting here today wishing that the season was still going on…
Last spring, my parents were highly encouraging me to join cross country. They just really wanted me to get to know some people, but I convinced myself that it would be pointless just to join something for the fact of that. After talking to many people about it, they convinced me I shouldn’t do it either. At that point I was NOT going to do cross country, and I tried to keep it out of my mind.
It just so happened that my sisters, mom, and I were going over to one of our friend’s house to drop something off. We ended up staying for a while because we had not talked to them in a long time. The three girls in their family all ran cross country and I had always heard them talk about how great it was. Two of the girls were home, and they starting telling me about how they thought I should do it. And that even though I didn’t like to run, that maybe I would learn to. One of them gave me a pair of their old spikes from college, and I felt that was a sign that I had to do it. But after everything else that had been on my mind, I still was not set on doing it.
The thing that kept on coming up in my mind was soccer. I knew that if I did cross country, I wouldn’t be able to commit to doing soccer too. It would just be too much for me to handle. That left me to choose between the two of them. I wanted to do soccer, but in the upcoming weeks I realized that that wasn’t what the Lord intended for me to do.
I attended a freshman orientation event and in the gym, there were a bunch of tables set up with all the clubs and activities Saint James had to offer (this was the first sort of insight I got towards making my decision). We were over by the cross country table, and my mom encouraged me just to go over there and get some more information. I walked over and was welcomed by three girls, who were telling me about how great it was. They were super sweet, and hearing what they had to say about it helped me a lot. I also remember talking to Coach Harber, our main coach. I had never talked to him before, but everyone had told me that he was a living saint and he was amazing. They were not wrong. He went on to ask me what was holding me back from choosing to do cross country. And I said, “nothing.” Honestly, that was true. I had no valid reason why I would not do it besides soccer, but by that time I had decided I would not be doing it. I then realized at that point that I lacked a reason not to do it.
There was summer running going on and my parents told me just to try it out, so I was at Gary Gribble’s getting shoes. I must have been wearing an SJA shirt because there was a man shopping who asked if I would be participating in cross country for Saint James. Come to find out, he used to coach cross country there. He kept on talking about how amazing the program was, the athletes and coaches, community, and faith. Hearing everything he had to say got me very interested, and made me think more about what I would ultimately choose.
Weeks passed still thinking about what to do and I started to talk to two people in particular about what to do. One of those people had done cross country at Saint James before, and absolutely loved it. I had been talking to her for a while about the choice I would make. The two of us have been friends for a while, and we continued to talk about it through summer running.
The second person has always been a great mentor for me and I knew that she was the one I needed to talk to about this. When I started to talk to her about cross country, she really encouraged me to do it and had this rich enthusiasm. She told me this story connecting back to when she was my age, and it really hit me. She really wanted to do cross country, but her soccer coach wouldn’t allow her to do it. It was an opportunity she wanted to take, but couldn’t. It made me really think deeply about it. With that, we had this really great conversation about the sport and what I should go through with. And after all the instances I had had within the past few months, this was the sealing cap to the decision.
I WAS doing cross country.
The first week of workouts went by, and I felt like it was a lot. But then I realized that the Lord put all these things leading up to the decision for a reason. I was there for a reason. I was meant to do cross country for a reason.
The first meet came up so fast. It was a BLAST! It was only a 4k, and it seemed like forever but the race environment. WOW. It’s something else. Let me tell you. This was the only race I ran for a month or so. I hurt myself, and missed two races, but thankfully was able to make it back for the last three. Thankfully.
We finished up our season on Thursday, well all of us except for our regionals/state participants. As I ran my last race, all I could think of was what an incredible season it was. I learned so much. I learned that racing is not for you. You are not racing for yourself. Sure, there is a clock, and you want to beat it, but the fact is you don’t run for yourself. You run for someone. You offer up the pain you feel while going all out for someone who cannot do otherwise or needs your prayers. You run for the intentions of those around you. For me, it was not about running my fastest time. It was about using the gift of running the Lord gave me to greater glorify Him. It was about building those up around me.
Honestly, I made some of my greatest friends at cross country. And those friendships were created in some of the oddest ways looking back. One in a pouring down rainstorm, and we could barely see, and another through a family connection. I never thought I would be able to talk while running, but I was, and the conversations I had while doing it were so authentic and good. I honestly loved that. We were just out running but having a conversation that actually means something. Not a conversation about things of this world that people get so caught up in, but one that was good. A good conversation that helps you to truly get to know someone and that’s what I experienced. Thinking back now to when I said I did not need to make friends in a sport, I can not imagine what it would be like if I had not. These are some of the best people I have ever met. Each one of them is so unique and has something so special to share with this world. They are strong people who are determined to conquer a goal. Not just a goal of beating a time, but a higher goal. The higher goal of getting to Heaven, and helping those along the way.
The season is over now, but now I have the memories. The memories will always stay with me, and they show that sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference. All the running was not easy. I will tell you that. But it was worth it. All the work was worth it.
Worth it for Him.
And if it weren’t for God, I would not have had this amazing privilege to be on the team and experience what I did. It’s for that that I am so grateful for. Even though, competing in this sport was not my original plan, it was His. And that’s what mattered the most.
I could write on and on telling you every little detail, but I choose to keep it short (if you call three pages short). Cross country has changed me for the better. I went in with a bad attitude, but came out loving to run. I met some INCREDIBLE people that have helped me to see many things from a different viewpoint. There was something about running with great friends in the 100 degree weather. Something about cheering others around you on. Something about have good conversation. Something about doing something you thought you couldn’t do. Something about cross country that and I cannot even begin to explain to you how amazing it was to take part in.
Thank you for the gift of an amazing season. Thank you for leading me to this sport, these people, and this community. I do not know what I would have done without it. I know that you have a plan, and all things you do work for good. I trust in You, and all plans you have for me. Amen.
St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Pray for Us.