Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!
When I used to run cross country, I would always run behind someone else. We would run in packs and the leader would set the pace and decide where we would go. I always found the leading position to be unsettling and I didn’t like the pressure; I just preferred to stare at the feet of the girl in front of me. It was easier that way. I figured I’d become the leader eventually, maybe when I was a senior. Then everyone would follow me.
But senior year came around and I was still following people. I even started following people who were younger than me. I would be running along, and somewhere around the third mile I would look up at the girl in front of me and think to myself this is not right. What happened to becoming the reincarnation of the senior who had inspired me three years before? I was ashamed at myself. And my running deteriorated. I “retired” early from my senior cross country season. And I couldn’t bring myself to run again for another two months.
My cross country career is similar to my personal life in that I would always wait and follow others. When I moved here (to Georgia) I met a group of girls who were a year older than me, and I admired them so much. I thought of them all as my big sisters and they were my role models. I ran cross country with them, I went to proms with them, and I even chose the college that they all go to now. And while yes, they are good friends and also worthy role models, I couldn’t help wondering if I chose to do the things I did because I wanted to, or because it just seemed like a routine course of action to follow them. This year they are all off to college, and for once I have been forced to stand on my own. Early in the school year, I would compare my progress with theirs; I used their senior years as a model for my own. But I hate the feeling of standing in someone’s shadow.
Slowly, I began to assert my independence. A little teenage rebellion, if you will. It’s been my own private form of rebellion though, because no one really knows about it. I have my own goals for my future. I have a specific plan. And while it does partially include them, I’ve made it my goal to view this upcoming year as a brand new adventure, disregarding the imaginary life of mine that I might have fabricated from Facebook photos of my friends.
You begin to crave that ache in your legs and the sweat running down your face. I’ve always imagined the sweat coming out of my pores to be filled with all the bad things in my body and mind that I need to purge myself of.
I’m running on my own now. Following no one. I like knowing that I am choosing to run just for myself.