I have an on-again, off-again relationship with running.
The cycle began when I joined the track and field team in seventh grade. I already played a fall sport and was looking for a way to stay active in the spring. That year I tried out sprinting, hurdles and triple jump; I found myself extremely motivated by the prospect of progress in these various events. The next year I ran cross country in the fall and focused on long-distance running when track season came around. When I entered high school, I opted to play field hockey instead of cross country. I expected to return to track in the spring but found myself too busy with other obligations.
Throughout high school I ran infrequently. Before field hockey preseason, I would force myself to run to prepare; I would occasionally jog around my neighborhood to clear my mind. It wasn’t until the pandemic that I started to take running more seriously again.
In March of 2020 I was, like many others, going stir-crazy and turned to exercise as a solution. I began dragging my mom out on runs with me. Quickly we found ourselves getting into the rhythm of it. We would wake up, run to a nearby park, stretch, circle back to our house and walk our dog as a cooldown. It was a lengthy activity, one that certainly does not fit as well into our post-pandemic lives, but I am grateful that we were able to do that then. I remember very clearly the landmarks and details assigned to the route: the site of the nursery indicating that we were half a mile into the run, the park bleachers that we did stretches on, the mailboxes I came to know.
When college started virtually in fall of 2020, I began to slack with my running. I would go weeks without running, then go out for jogs randomly and be disappointed with my results. A similar trajectory continued throughout my first two years of college. I would start running again, tell myself I would stick with it and fail to do so.
This summer I believe I changed my relationship with running for good. I interned at a nonprofit in Baltimore and adjusted well to working nine to five. I found myself consistently going to the Rec Center and working on my running. I set tangible goals, such as being able to do an endurance workout twice on a given day rather than once and to work on my pace. By the end of the summer, I was able to run longer distances than I had ever anticipated, peaking at eight miles.
Unfortunately I stopped running once again when I tested positive for COVID-19 a week before the start of school. Having to quarantine obviously screwed up my running schedule, and even after I was no longer sick, my endurance seemed to have vanished. My runs immediately after having COVID-19 were extremely difficult, and that in conjunction with the busyness that comes with the start of school has made it tough for me to find the time to run.
Just last week I tried to start running again. It’s been difficult — I’ve been running two miles instead of eight at a slower pace than I would like, but I’m learning to accept that progress is not always linear. Although I don’t currently have the stamina required to run eight miles, I know that it is something I am capable of with a bit of training. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I had more time and energy to devote to running over the summer in comparison to the semester. I am also working to cut myself some slack in regard to my running journey as I’m focusing on academics.
Furthermore I have been focusing on the progress I have made in other areas while I have been away from running. For example, I recently looked back at some old writing and realized how much growth I have experienced there, and I finally mastered a figure skating jump that I had been working on for a while.
Although my running is currently subpar, I know that I will always return to it. In the meantime I have other hobbies in which I can cultivate personal growth, find fulfillment and genuinely enjoy the time I spend on them.
Madelyn Kye is a junior from Long Island, N.Y. majoring in Writing Seminars and International Studies. Her column discusses people and things that have entered and exited her life, often through the lens of growing up.