I spent years being a jock in middle school and high school. I swam at a junior national level before getting mono my freshman year of high school. After that, I was never the same in the water, and I turned my back on swimming in favor of rowing.
Rowing was a wonderful experience. I discovered it was something I was naturally talented at. I was blessed to go to scholastic nationals in Orlando, summer nationals in Indianapolis, and the Independence Day regatta in Phildelphia. Throughout high school, I got faster and faster. This culminated with being awarded an athletic scholarship to a Division I college.
Unfortunately, collegiate rowing was a disaster, and I quickly became injured and disenchanted with rowing by overtraining.
After spending all of my teenage years doing two-a-day practices, competing in sporting events on the weekends, and generally not having a life, I was burned out. I had always been competing to make someone else happy. I never competed to make me happy.
I still haven’t been on a rowing machine, in a boat, or swum more than a few laps since walking away from elite athletics. There’s still a lot of pain associated with those two sports. Maybe someday I’ll be ready to give them another go, but not today.
After leaving athletics, I lost that athletic girl who had been with me for most of my life. She never ceased to exist, but she was buried underneath all of the other things I had going on in my life. I tried to drown her in a sea of laziness and excuses.
Then I discovered running. Because I had spent so many years trying to be the best in my chosen sports, it was nice to choose one where I knew I wasn’t going to be the best. I could race for me.
After my first 5k, I was hooked. Now, I thrive on running races, either for distance, or to set a new PR. Getting back into the competitive atmosphere was just what I needed to reignite my passion for being athletic.
It hasn’t been an easy road back to the competitive world, but slowly, I’m working my way back. I now feel that old spark and thrill of excitement when I’m at the starting line for a race.
And that’s worth all the blood, sweat, and tears I put into it.