Sunday, June 26, 2011

sharing the running love

R ecently I had a speaking engagement with a group of girls attending a camp called Smart Choices sponsored by Girls Inc. of the Central Coast. The camp is a summer program for girls entering high school. They live on the CSU Monterey Bay campus for a week and learn about college life, do some outdoor activities, and meet some new friends, all while learning about leadership, self-esteem, healthy lifestyles and much more. Their motto is “strong, smart and bold.” All the girls I met there were refreshingly well-spoken.
I was slated to speak on a morning where the girls were focusing on sports and physical fitness. When I arrived at the CSUMB track, Mike Dove, the director of Just Run, the youth running program, was just finishing up his talk. I was a little later in the program because I had to get my workout in and send Quin off to gymnastics with his grandmother.
Nina Anderson, a standout runner from Notre Dame High School in Salinas, was also there to inspire the girls and give them some pearls of wisdom as they headed into high school. Better her than me, I thought, it seem like ages ago when I was in high school.
Dove had the girls run a mile around the track. He told them to pace themselves and start easy. Of course, they all bolted out with enthusiasm. And, needless to say, a majority of them had slowed considerably by the second lap. Yet, almost all the girls finished in under 10 minutes. It was nice to see a group of girls cheering one another to the finish line. There were some good looking athletes and hopefully some future runners in the bunch.
When I’m talking with young runners, I like to talk about setting goals and being stubborn in your pursuits. But when I spoke to those young ladies I also found myself telling them how much fun sports can be in high school. It’s funny, but I don’t remember too many specifics about my races, but I do remember the comradery, the fun and the laughs. I remember a high school teammate running so hard during a cross country race he closed his eyes on the final stretch. He ran into a tree. My coach picked him up and threw him in the right direction yelling “Run, (expletive), Run!”
In college I remember a teammate struggling through a steeplechase race. With a lap to go, he fell over a barrier but got up and ran to the next hurdle only to fall again. Exhausted, he limped to the last barrier and caught his foot and went down a third time. He then muttered something and stepped off the track in disgust. Luckily, there was a video that caught the entire sequence, and I can assure you it was brought out countless times at parties for a good laugh.
I hope these girls are lucky enough to find a sport that excites them and will allow them the opportunity to create fun memories. Though running may not be everyone’s first choice, what I love about it is that you will improve if you are willing to put in the time. It’s cheap, rewarding, and can be done almost anywhere. You can make it what you want. For me, running has become a career path, but it has also been a social circle. Heck, if it was not for running, I would never have crossed paths with the steeplechase runner who would become my husband.

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