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Student Blog: Stage to 5K

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How a Year Without Theater Made Me Into a Runner

Student Blog: Stage to 5K

I'm not a runner. I've never claimed to be one-I'm anything but fast, I have chronic knee problems, and the prospect of doing anything remotely athletic makes me want to cower in fear. And yet, in March of 2020, I found myself lacing up my sneakers every morning and heading out onto the trail.

My odyssey with distance running began in seventh grade when I joined the track team. It quickly became clear to me that I wouldn't be the track star I had always imagined myself to be. Track and field, even in distance, is chiefly about speed, which I lack. I ended the season with a storied career as a scorekeeper who brokered a meet separated by 1/4 of a point each.

In short, I had almost no future as a runner. I'd head out occasionally, but could barely make it half a mile without stopping, beating myself up over my terrible times.

Fast forward to the month that the world fell apart-in March of 2020, I was sent home from school, sent home from the new life and routine that I had created for myself. There would be no more early morning trips to the gym before class; no more evening rehearsals keeping my mind off of the long Pennsylvania winter outside my window. I was back in my childhood bedroom with no structure and no motivation.

On the first day that the world thawed enough for me to run without encountering too much Black Ice, I set my mind to my goal and headed out. I had done a lot of reading since my previous attempts at running, and I had a new method: run slow, less bouncing, head up, arms strong. I no longer cared how far I went or how quickly I did so; instead, I set my watch for thirteen minutes (a little over my average mile time) and meandered my way around the now-desolate college campus near my house with only one goal in mind-no stopping.

Over the next few months, I went out almost every day. There were setbacks-a gnarly laptop-to-toe incident that involved a trip to the ER and a couple of weeks off my feet was the highlight-but there were also triumphs, like the first time I had ever run two miles in one session.

To me, running isn't about seeing if you can beat your previous time. I'm not racing anybody; I know I'll never win any medals. It's about listening to music, moving your body because you can, looking at flowers, petting dogs, breathing in the misty air of a summer morning in the mountains. It's about seeing the world differently. More importantly, in a year without any rehearsals or shows to give me stability, running gave me something to wake up for every morning.

Sure, I still celebrate every time I run further than I did yesterday. But there are days where I set out with a two-mile goal and cut it short at one mile because of my knees. On those days, where my body can't take me as far as I want it to, I remind myself that, just a little over a year ago, I was barely scraping one mile. Now, two is my standard. I'm doing better than I ever dreamed-and with each improvement, my mile time gets slower.

It's not about how fast you get there, it's about how far you go.

This weekend, I'm running in the Broadway Cares Virtual 5K along with some other student bloggers. All donations go to fighting COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS, two deadly diseases that have taken many lives. To make a difference (and help our student blogger team meet its fundraising goal!) visit this page and click donate.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Sydney Emerson