Ever since starting cross country at Scheck Hillel Community School two years ago, I have always found running to be valuable in many aspects. I began running in South Florida to stay fit and live a healthy lifestyle. Little did I know there was much more to running than just that.
It doesn’t matter where I am running or how long I am running; running is the best solution to all problems. It is an escape, gives a sense of control and tests personal limits.
When I am running, I don’t think about my problems. Free to think about whatever I want, I’m not myself anymore. Instead, I become an entirely new, carefree person. There is no school, and there is no work, nowhere to go and no outside concerns, nothing but following the same circular path. I block out all physical senses. I don’t have to worry because I don’t have any worries.
When I am running, I am in control of everything. I can choose where I go, how fast I go and how long I go. I am not doing this for anyone else. I am running for me.
Other sports require team effort while cross country keeps you focused on only yourself. For example, I have been playing tennis since I was little. Tennis and running are very different. In order to win in tennis, it is important to concentrate on the opponent’s next move as opposed to running, which is much more personal. A runner only communicates with herself. Sometimes it’s necessary to have that alone time.
What I enjoy most now about running is testing my limits. I am not competing with other players, just myself. My perspective has really changed after my first season of running.
One time, while running Markham Park in Weston, I approached a steep incline after running on flat grass. Runners know changing from flat grass to cement is a difficult transition. After running for so long on grass, the last thing I wanted to do was run up a bridge. I was getting close to the incline and from the corner of my eye I noticed a bench. Knowing that I would have to run the same course twice, suddenly the idea of hiding under the bench became a very logical option. I was even thinking about a way to join the others as they came back around a second time. Against my better judgment, I decided to run it out. Since I pushed myself through that, I am able to push myself through other obstacles.
Another motivator is trying to beat my previous time. After each one of my cross-country meets, my previous coach, Ms. Kramer, sat with us and compared our running times to previous times. I always feel so accomplished after hearing I beat my time, which only makes me more determined to go faster and faster. This is very different from when I first began running.
Running also releases endorphins; so not only do I feel good when I hear I’ve done better, I also benefit from staying healthy. It just makes my day a whole lot better.
So whenever I have a bad day, I always look forward to running because it helps me emotionally, mentally and physically.
Escaping from the real world, controlling my life and testing limits are what relax me while I run. It is the best time for me to reflect and clear my mind. Maybe it can do the same for you.
• Jacqueline Alman is a sophomore at Scheck Hillel Community School in North Miami Beach.