Growing up, a common question I heard from the adults around me was “Why are you a runner?” Followed by, “Isn’t it painful to get last every time?” I truly made no sense to them, they wondered why I would put in all the extra work for very poor results. To be fair, there were times that I agreed with them, however, at the end of each day I never gave up. Yes it’s true that sometimes I failed, though ultimately I never let it prevent me from doing my best.
First and foremost, one of the biggest reasons why I stayed in running was due to gaining so many social skills. Given that it is a sport where everyone could participate regardless of their level, the opportunity for social skills gains was tremendous. For students with an NVLD, forming proper friendships and communication skills requires extra instruction and being on a team allows that to happen. You often hear that students with social disabilities have a high risk for isolation and I knew I didn’t want that at all. In addition, it gave me a real understanding of what it means to never give up no matter what the obstacle is. Each day I was increasing my miles and for me, it was truly like training for a marathon. As time went on I gained an incredible support team and today many of them are still part of my life. I truly think to myself running has given me so many opportunities in life as it allowed me to see how much I had to offer.
Besides the social gains, being a three-season runner I also gained a tremendous support. Right from day one, my cross-country coach knew things were going to be harder for me and always saw my strong work ethic. Truthfully many people were impressed by listening to me talk about how incredible my coach Jim Adams was to me. Throughout my running career, he was my biggest advocate and if others weren’t giving me a fair chance he was the first to take care of the situation One of the best moments in my running career was receiving the sportsmanship award as I knew my coach respected me. His outstanding level of care and support truly extended well past cross-country and today he is still a very important figure in my life. By giving up running I would have lost his relationship which would had been so disappointing as he has so much faith in me.
Overall, as difficult as it is, it’s so important to join a sport or activity. I know personally if I hadn’t been a cross-country runner, running track wouldn’t have been possible because of my gross motor skills. I also know without running I wouldn’t have had an advocate either nor would I have the high school friends that I do. It’s hard, I know, but not having a sense of belonging truly only makes everything harder.
I think the world of my cross-country coach.