Breakthrough. It’s a loaded word if you ask me. If someone has had a breakthrough, they must have had some sort of success, right? Maybe, they won an award or got a high grade. If you label this year a “breakthrough” for me, many will automatically connect it to running.
And there was a breakthrough with running. I made the executive decision to step up and fight for something I loved: the mile/1500m.
Last spring, I was staring at a preliminary heat sheet for the 1500m run at MAC Championships that predicted that I would not make it to the finals. I cried, physical tears as I stared at that paper. Sophomore year with running was like one of those relationships you really need to get out of it, but you just don’t know how to quit it. You’re determined to find the good in an impossibly bad situation.
On the day of prelims, I got an email from my best friend, Juli (she was studying abroad in France) that said:
“Look at the girls surrounding you and remember that none of them have the confidence that you have and none of them stand a chance next to you in the last 200 meters. You have the fearlessness to engage yourself in a pain that most of us avoid coming down that final stretch. You have that passion to arrive at a perfect race, one in which you know you couldn’t have gone any faster. ”
I took those words with me to the line and engaged in the pain. I arrived at a perfect race: a season best time of 4:32 and qualification to finals. But the next day, my legs were gone and my body had nothing left.
I finished last, discovered that my coach considered my last two years of running “a waste” and cried, again.
A year later, I hold a silver medal from the 1500m finals. I ran a 4:26–a season best time and an Ohio University school record. A “breakthrough” some would say, but this moment is not my breakthrough.
The true breakthrough came in segments. It came from deciding that I ran for me, not my coach. It came from writing on a small note card my dreams for myself. It came from failing.
Yes, I failed. I failed to be first team All-MAC in cross country in the fall. I failed to run a 4:45 in the indoor mile. I failed to run through the finish line at Indiana University. I failed to be the 1500m MAC Champion.
I wrote down dreams that I still have to chase and along the way I learned a lot about who I am as person.
I learned that despite the fact that I despise math, I was not half bad at accounting.
I learned that coffee can and will change your entire morning.
I learned that having one drink on Sunday with your best friends is perfect.
I learned that hard decisions reveal your character.
I learned that timing really is everything.
Most importantly, I learned to fight for what I want. I learned never to give up on myself. I learned that as scary as it is to want something, living out a dream makes it all worth it.
The year 2012-13 was a year of breakthroughs, in more than just running; but life-changing breakthroughs do not always show up on paper.