Running is as vital to me as breathing. I have been running in one form or another for as long as I can remember. Growing up, we didn’t have computers or video games, so most of the games we played involved running. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the fastest, but I wasn’t exactly the slowest, either. And my endurance was mediocre compared to the other boys in the neighborhood.
I didn’t begin running per se until my freshman year at Divine Heart Seminary when I joined the cross-country team. I wasn’t disciplined enough to train properly, but I finished every race. I don’t believe I was ever last. My first race was the Marshall County Meet in Indiana. I had never run in an organized race before, so I had no idea about how fast to run or how to pace myself. So, I ran ahead of the entire pack, and everyone was cheering me on. However, I soon faded and lost contact with the lead pack. I hated the pain and felt like quitting. I also felt embarrassed that when I returned to the spectators’ view, I was no longer in the lead, but toward the end with the last runners. I don’t remember my finishing time, but somehow, I was awarded a ribbon.
When I transferred to another high school, they didn’t have a cross country team. As much as I disliked the pain, I sometimes felt from running, I missed running cross country. I didn’t really run much the rest of my high school years, but I did do a lot of walking instead of taking the bus around Chicago.
When I turned nineteen, I was working in a peanut butter factory as a manual laborer and suddenly I felt a strong urge to begin running again. I wanted to be in shape, and I associated being able to run long distances as the equivalent of being in shape. I still feel that way. So, I started running again.
I remembered the shin splints I had when I first started running cross country as I felt them when I started running again at age nineteen. I suddenly remembered how hard and painful running can be. Yet this somehow encouraged me to keep running. To keep running against myself. I needed to overcome the shin splints, the side stitches I felt on every run, and the feeling of quitting and doing something that was as painful. But I kept running. Running gave me great satisfaction! And a great sense of accomplishment! I felt good about myself that I had run, despite the soreness I felt afterwards. Gradually, there was less pain and soreness as I continued running regularly and felt more pleasure during the run and afterwards, too. Now, decades later, I’m still running, thankful I never quit!