I love running. For the last 11 years, it’s been my thing. For a while, it was my only thing, and I was totally OK with that.
I grew up in a very athletic family, but I was quickly identified as the klutz for my inability to walk without running into something, catch a ball, or do anything that involved a whole lot of coordination. I hated gym class because I was bad at it, and I rarely stuck with a sport for more than a season or two.
BUT THEN, in fourth grade, we ran the mile. And I was good at it! I remember running in the low 7 minute range, and I was one of the fastest in the class. I had never been good at ANYTHING in gym class, but here was this thing that everyone hated that I really enjoyed. I looked forward to the mile test every fall and every spring as my chance to be good, and I dreamed about the day when I got to middle school so that I could join a team playing a sport I actually liked
I started running competitively in 7th grade as a part of our middle school cross country team. I LOVED IT. It was super lax (like one or two practices a week that involved running around a field for about 15 minutes), but I met people I wouldn’t have known otherwise, and I had so much fun racing! I didn’t really get until 8th grade that feeling sick during a race wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I thought feeling sick was my body’s way of saying “SLOW DOWN, ALEXIS! YOU ARE CRAZY!!” And then finally, I ran a race when I pushed through it, and I realized I didn’t die. And I ran my first sub-7 minute mile! I called my Dad right away because I was so so excited, and the competitive bug officially chomped right into me.
I unfortunately don’t have many pictures from the awesome-ness that was middle school XC and track, but here are a couple of gems. Yes, we did run in gigantic pinnies. And we did it with big smiles on our faces.
And then high school XC came around. I could not possibly say enough about my 4 year experience as a high school athlete. I lived and breathed running, and it never seemed like too much. I always wanted to run, I always wanted to race, I lived and died by race results, I consulted newspapers to check up on my competition.
I also got close to my very best friends over four years. We were the silly freshmen in the fall of 2005, and we stuck together for 4 crazy years. We dressed up for every spirit day, stayed late at every pasta party, bought the best presents for secret psyche, frolicked in the graveyard during easy runs, and genuinely loved spending time together.
I found my confidence and my identity in my high school locker room. That’s where I learned to be loved and appreciated. At meets, I learned what it meant to challenge myself. I learned what it meant to face pure competitive joy, to be blinded by heart breaking defeat, and to support my friends for all of their accomplishments.
I was lucky enough to be a captain of all 3 running teams my senior year, and I loved instilling the passion for the teams that I had built up into our younger runners. I could literally go on forever about the hilarious moments and the amazing stories, and maybe if people are interested, I will someday. But for now, here’s a collage of some of my favorite moments, spread across 4 years of awesome.
When I started looking at colleges, the first thing I did was figure out where I could run. I was a solid high school runner for my area, but I was not going to go Division I. So I sifted through a bunch of D3 programs, looking for something that would create a family for me away from home like my high school team had done.
I found Franklin & Marshall College basically by accident, but I could not be happier with my decision. The coach got me hooked on the program there, and for my freshman year, I threw myself into competitive running. I missed a lot of cross country because of a virus, but I ran a solid indoor and outdoor track season.
Sophomore year was very different. The summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I had to take a few weeks off because of a hip flexor injury. But instead of being moody and depressed (like I had been when I missed an indoor track season my senior year of high school with a stress fracture), I was relieved. I didn’t want to get healthy. I didn’t want to go back to running.
But I did, and I made it through my sophomore season of XC. I was OK. Not 100% myself, and people noticed. I just wasn’t in a place anymore where I wanted running to be my life. I also had 2 stress fractures (one in each shin), so I was sidelined for indoor and outdoor track. That gave me the opportunity to join a sorority (Kappa Delta if you’re curious!) and try out some new things.
I took a year long hiatus from competitive running, using my junior year to pursue a bunch of other interests. I took 6 months off from running because I just didn’t want to. It wasn’t fun at all anymore.
But, eventually, the running bug came back. I started with a few 3 mile runs a week just to get back into it, and before long, I found myself asking my coach if I could rejoin the team for my senior year. He’s the best, so he said yes, and I was so happy to be back with my friends. I branched out in college a lot more than I did in high school, but a lot of my very best friends ran cross country and track with me. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to run one last competitive season as a Diplomat before graduating in the spring of 2013. Here’s a collage of some of my favorite team moments from 2009-2013.
I graduated this spring, so I’m obviously no longer on a cross-country team. But I still love to run! I ran my first marathon in May 2013 (1 week after my college graduation), and I’m so pumped to start training for my second. I know I probably will never be as fast as I was in high school and college (my high school 2 mile PR was 11:55 and my college 10K PR was 41:01), but I also know that I’m running for me now. I’m excited to continue meeting friends through this sport that I love.
To wrap it up, here’s one of my favorite pictures of myself. In high school, we used to run the Tufts 10K together as a team. This is from my freshman year, a moment when running was just pure fun. Here’s to always remembering that simple joy!