Wednesday, July 23, 2014

One Day You'll be a Runner

This post originally appeared about a year ago as a guest blog. I reworked it a little, and it's been getting a little love from some essay contests I've entered it in so I thought I would share it here on my blog. 

Dear Smart Girl,
Hey! Yeah, I’m talking to you. You in the corner of the library, with your nose stuck in a book.

 The girl who always gets picked last for the team. The girl who gets winded going upstairs. The girl who joined the marching band for the sole purpose of getting out of gym class.

I know you. I know you really well—better than anyone. Because I am you, a decade in the future. I know you feel awkward, that you’re not really chubby but you’re not skinny either. I know you’re shy and you’re clumsy.

And since I know you so well—we are, after all, the same person--I know how you watch the track team running around the track and admire them.  I know how you secretly wish you had a Letterman’s jacket, and that you could be one of the sporty girls. That you’ve won lots of awards—deans list, honor society, academic achievements—but that you really wish one of those awards was a little sports trophy.

Everyone understands that good athletes are good athletes—it’s finite. If you’re good at basketball, it’s a definitive good that everyone agrees on. If you’re good at something like writing or painting—well, it’s a subjective good. One person might think you’re a genius and other person might just cock his head and say, “huh?”

It all boils down to this—athletes get noticed. Athletes have power. Know what girls with big books have? A big vocabulary.

What if I told you that in the future, you would have more than a big vocabulary?

What if I told you that one day you swallowed your fear, purchased your very first pair of running shoes and trotted along for a (very slow) mile? And after that very slow mile, you added another? Day after day, week after week, until you could put one foot in front of the other for 13.1 miles? Would you believe me?

Well, you should. Because, little bookworm, you did it. You finally let go of your fear and became the thing you never had the nerve to be: an athlete. And at the end of that half marathon—your very first real race—you got your very first medal. An award. For something you did not with your mind, but with you body.

And it was a good day.

Here’s the thing about being a runner. For every mile you run, every medal you collect, every T-shirt you fold and tuck into a drawer, a little bit of fear melts away. You start to think about doing things you've never done before. Go rock climbing. Go whitewater rafting. Taking a salsa class doesn't feel so daunting because while you might still be clumsy, you know you can make it through the class without passing out. When you run 13.1 miles, you can do anything—even maybe begin to dream about the 26.2.

I’ll leave you with this: just the other day, I was running a race and talking about a running challenge I was training for with some ladies I met in the starting corral.

“So you’re a long distance runner?” one of them asked me. I immediately started to shake my head, and then I stopped myself.

“Yes,” I answered. “Yes, I am.”

So hang in there, smart girl. It’s okay to be a bookworm—but one day you’ll be a runner, too.


Your Future Self

A penny for your thoughts: what would you tell your former self in a letter?


  1. Love it! I would tell myself to take chances on people and new things.

    1. Yes! I like to stay in my safety bubble.

  2. I love this essay. It's you all over. The bookworm I met at 18 is still in there...and bouncing around with ideas in her giant-vocabularied brain when she's running all those miles!!

    1. If anyone would know the bookworm it would be you!!