Why I run: It’s all about the people

Freshman cross-country runner Heather Ashton shares with readers the burdens as well as the rewards of running.

Webster Thomas Cross-Country runners compete at Basil A. Marella Park in Greece, during the team's first league meet of the season, on Sept. 12.

Webster Thomas Cross-Country runners compete at Basil A. Marella Park in Greece, during the team's first league meet of the season, on Sept. 12.

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I biked to cross country practice every day over the summer, but one day I fell off my bike and scraped up my hands and my knees. It was nothing bad, but the day before that, I had cut a lot of my hair off. And I was still a bit panicked about my hair.

When I got to practice, I started talking to some of the people on the team; they were just checking on me to make sure I didn’t hurt myself. Then I started crying. Everyone thought it was because I had fallen off my bike, but, no; the bike just pushed me off the ledge I was already standing on. It was the hair.

I was bawling, and one of the girls said to me, “It’s okay. We’ll get you some Band-aids and fix it.” The next thing I said as I was crying, was about how terrible my hair looked (it was a laughable moment). Everyone was confused, but they still helped me out.

They helped me get myself together, and I think that’s an accurate representation of the kind of people who are on this team. No matter how much of a mess you are, they’ll be there for you. The people who do cross country are the people who are willing to work hard — the kind of people you just want to surround yourself with. They’re the kind of people who make you want to join a team where the sport is basically just putting yourself repeatedly through the intense burning pain and strain on your legs and lungs.

When I asked a few of my teammates why they run, a few girls on the team shared their thoughts:

Lia Kowalski said, “I run because it’s something for me to focus on and direct my energy toward.” She then went on to explain how the team helps her out: “I’m surrounded by amazing people, whether it’s coaches or teammates who both inspire and encourage me to push myself to new levels. And reaching those new levels is a feeling and experience I always strive for and will never forget.”

Lizzie Hanna also shared some of her reasons for doing cross country, saying, “I run because it gives me an outlet and makes me feel happy and healthy, mentally as well as physically.”

People ask me all the time why I run and how I could possibly enjoy running as a sport. The truth is that I don’t. Putting yourself through pain and extreme discomfort isn’t exactly my idea of fun. It’s the people who do this sport that make it worth it — and just the atmosphere of the team. It’s the feeling you get when you’re finally done. You just feel so accomplished and proud of yourself. It’s the best feeling in the world.

A team principle is that everyone has a place on the team, no matter how slow or fast you are. Our team is a big family. Everyone is accepted.