Off and Running

When the bell rings, or when the alarm goes off, I tie my shoe laces of my running shoes and mentally prepare for the run ahead of me. I get out the door, my favorite music playing in my ears, the sun hitting my face, the wind on my back, and the vision of nothing but the trail before me. I smell the sagebrush as I pass them by, I watch the road runner capture it’s food, the birds flying in the air- I feel just as free. I can feel my breathing getting heavier, the sweat coming off my forehead and chest. My legs feel strong and then the “hill” is in front of me. I want to stop. I keep going. I reach the top. I breathe. I race down. I see the sun rise. I soak in the colors. It’s just me and God- nature.

Anything is possible!!

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I have been running for most of my life. I cannot remember a time when I wasn’t running. My earliest memory of running was at my Uncle and Aunt’s wedding- I was two years old and a flower girl. During the reception I ran and ran and ran around the dance floor, while my mom fed me spoons full of posole as I passed her by.

I have an Uncle who was a rock star runner. He ran cross country and track in high school and kicked ass in the marathon in his twenties. When he would come visit he would race me on the drive way. I’m pretty sure he let me win. Sometimes we would even run on the street. If I couldn’t keep up he would put me on his shoulders until we arrived to the house. I loved those times with my Uncle. It was a time I felt free, accepted and adored. I knew I wanted to be a runner just like him.

When I started middle school I joined the track team. I was average and didn’t think too much of it, as basketball was my first love. As it turns out basketball didn’t love me as much I loved it. It wasn’t until I was in the eighth grade when I tried the hurdles. The first time I ran the 300 meter hurdles I tripped and fell at the last hurdle, placing 6th. I would have placed 1st if I hadn’t fallen. After that, I dominated. So much so, I was promoted to the varsity track team. They needed more runners to help win the district meet. I was so excited.

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Thanks for the picture Bruce!

I didn’t know at the time how the district meet worked- apparently it is a qualifier meet for State. There are two ways a person can qualify for the State Track Meet: Time or by placing first or second at the district track meet. I was placed in a slower heat, since my time wasn’t that great compared to others on varsity.  I didn’t even know how to use blocks yet, so I lined up on my lane, steady and listened for the sound of the gun. BOOM! I blasted out and ran my heart out. I placed first in my heat, and had to wait for the faster heat to run to see how my time compared to the rest of the runners. When they finished, my coach told me I had placed 2nd. We had to wait for the official announcement to be sure. When the voice came to announce the results of the 300 meter hurdles, I hear in second place, “Abeyta” from Taos. I screamed, my teammates screamed, we jumped up and down and I couldn’t believe it. I was this scrawny 13 year old, an 8th grader who qualified for the State Meet.

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When I ran at State that year, I had NO IDEA what to expect. Never been to one, and I didn’t even know we had to stay the night. I thought it was going to be like any other track meet. NOPE! It was a two day track meet. Preliminaries and then finals. I didn’t pack for an overnight trip so I had to figure it out. I didn’t get past preliminaries that year, however the following years, was a different story.

I broke many records. I won many district meets, however State was somehow a goal that was a bit out of reach for me. The closest I ever got was 4th place. It was a heart breaking loss. I was in the lead until the final two hurdles, and it was like I was moving in slow motion and just watched as three girls pass me at the finish line.

I don’t know why, but I freaked out. I wanted to win State so bad, yet I was afraid to. To this day I don’t know why. Maybe it was fear of success. Maybe it was this concept that I didn’t deserve to win. It’s hard to tell. All I know is that winning a big race was hard for me. I had a hard time believing in myself.

Running track was my world. It was the only time I truly felt that I belonged. I felt like a winner and that people noticed me. I put a lot of my identity on running track.

I joined cross country my freshman year. Long distance running was never my favorite. I certainly did not dominate in this sport as I did in track. However, it gave me an appreciation for the athletes who do dominate in long distance running. It takes so much work to be able to run so long- the stamina, the endurance, the faith, the dedication. My favorite aspect of running cross country were my teammates and my coach. The advantage of living in Taos and training was the high elevation and the lovely landscapes and trails in which to run. Our hardest days were when we had to run the “mountain.” 4 miles straight up to the top and then 4 miles down a rocky, thin trail. I think I got lost a couple of times. 🙂 It reminds me of La Luz, only half of the intensity. We ran hard, and encouraged each other.  My love to run on trails comes from this experience. To be able to surround myself with nature as I push myself beyond my limits. Just ask my husband how I am constantly scouting for running trails around our city in which to run.

Running is more to me than just a physical exercise. It is a spiritual experience in the sense of becoming one with God and nature. The mere fact that I am healthy enough to run gives me a sense of gratefulness. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Running constantly gives me challenges- longer or faster. Running gives me a sense of community. How great that my insanity for loving this sport is not only myself, but there are many who love this crazy sport. Running encourages me to live life fully no matter what- I don’t know what other runners think about when they run, but I tend to compare my life to the run I am running. For example, if I am running a path that is hilly and it is hot out, I think about the struggles I am going through, to keep putting one foot in front of the other- and soon the finish line will appear. I think of that hill as the problem I am facing and even though I am fatigued, my legs hurt, and I want to stop desperately, I don’t. I must go on. If I do stop, I forgive myself and enjoy the moment I have, then pick up where I left off. It is never too late to start over. 🙂 Running helps me conquer my fears and gives me the strength to be who I am. To run across that finish line is a sweet victory- no matter what place or time you get.

Running is life.

I want to personally thank my Uncle for giving me this gift– For introducing me to running when I was so young. For coming out to watch me run during those meets. For encouraging me and changing my life for the better because of it. Thank God for Uncles right?!

To my high school cross country coach- thank you for believing in me when I didn’t. Thank you for showing me the “path.”

As I continue to run I will create my own paths and hope that my children will do the same.

 

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