Dear Running: Thank You For My Team

Claire Clark is just a sophomore at Andrews HS, but that hasn't stopped her from loving the sport and having quite the impression made upon her at a young age.

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Dear Running,

We've been friends for a long time, and you've given me so much. Having a former track coach for a Dad meant we were introduced pretty early. One summer when I was about 8, I ran in a little summer track meet. I won the 800 for my age group and a love for distance running was born.

My 7th grade year I couldn't wait to run, but first we had to overcome some issues. Although I loved cross country, the idea of running over the summer didn't appeal to me and so I didn't. The first day of practice was a 2-mile time trial, and I shall not repeat the time I ran that day. Luckily my amazing coach didn't tell me to go away and never come back and by the end of the year, I was much better and more in love with cross country than ever.

The summer before my freshman year I faithfully ran every day, much improved from my 7th grade self, however a fateful ankle sprain at church camp derailed plans for a little while. Freshman track I experienced the pain of being too fast for JV but not fast enough for varsity and learned a lot about pushing myself with no one around. 

This XC season I made varsity and loved it. Although we didn't qualify for state, one of the most heartbreaking things ever, I loved every minute of my season. 

This track season was on track to be incredible for our entire team and then it was seemingly ripped away. 

People ask us why we run and as a team we discuss it quite often on long runs in 105ยบ Texas heat. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we wake up at 5:30 am, every day Monday through Saturday, and run mile after mile after mile? Why do we run laps around a red oval attempting to catch the person in front of us like hamsters on a wheel? Honestly as a team, we've never come up with a good answer, but I think it's a combination of reasons.

 I love the competitive aspect, working to get better, working to beat my time but even that can get frustrating. You can hit walls where, no matter what you do, it seems you'll never break through the time barrier. The 800 is often called the hardest race in track, and I would agree, but I love it. It has taught me so much about pushing through the pain, taking things 200 meters at a time and running with your heart. There's nothing like the feeling of stepping off the track after sprinting (well it feels like it anyway) two laps. 

Running is a great mind clearer; nothing helps you think better than a nice long run with plenty of time to think uninterrupted. It's a stress reliever allowing me time to process my day and plan for the next one. The problems take a back seat because it's really hard to deal with them while running down the street, that could get dangerous. 

I, however, love running the most because of my team. 

We are a family. After all, we regularly see each other at 5:30 am when nobody looks good. We spend hours together doing something that people call us crazy for, and maybe we are, but we are all crazy together. I've never had a bond with anyone the way I do with my teammates. We are always there for each other through laughter and tears. It's not just the girls' team either, we are close to the boys as well. They provide comic relief as one of the goofiest group of guys I've ever met. 

Our coach is amazing. He's always there for us and cares about us as so much more than just runners on a course. He cares about us as people beyond the course.

 Running has given me so many memories I'll never forget. I'll never forget watching one of our sophomore boys shatter 2:00 for the 800 or watching the boys come in 2nd at the State XC meet by 2 points. I'll never forget winning our relay style cross country meet with my senior partner. I'll never forget the miles run with the girls and the conversations we've had on the bus, warming up or just hanging out. I'll never forget rolling with laughter after a card game or some stupid comment made by one of the boys. 

I'll never forget losing my voice in the short time between the end of my mile race and the end of the last mile relay as we scream for each other. I'll never forget my teammate cheering me on, making sure that someone is on the back curve for the 3rd lap of the 1600. I'll never forget my teammates cheering for me beyond the track, in whatever I try to achieve. 

I'll never forget the heartbreak we've walked through together.

 I'll never forget the bond I've shared with my teammates. I miss working out with my teammates. I went from seeing them almost every day to not seeing them for weeks. Texting just isn't the same. I won't take for granted daily hugs from my teammates or celebrating our personal victories together. 

While this season may or may not be over, I'm lucky, only a sophomore, I have two whole years to spend with my team. My heart breaks for the seniors whose crowning season was ripped away.

 However, this too shall pass, and someday I hope we will get back to doing what we love together. 

Thank you, Running, for the life lessons you've taught me, the person I've become because of you, but most of all thank you Running, for my team.  I look forward to the next two years and whatever comes after that. Thank you for the people whom I've come to love like family and who love me the same. 

Thank you Running for my team,

Claire Clark, Andrews High School 2022