Why we play

First-year Miles Takiguchi shares his formula for athletic success: eat, run, repeat. Courtesy of Vassar Athletics

Miles Takiguchi, Cross Country

I’m often asked why I run. To many, it’s an unfathomable decision. Do you enjoy punishing your body? Is it fun to run yourself into the ground each day, go home, take a shower, go to bed and repeat the process the next day? Is there some connection missing in your brain? When formulating a response, sometimes I’ll just say “because running feels good” or “then I get to eat more,” but when I think about it, I have to go back to when I started this simple addictive sport.

Athletics have always been a substantial part of my life. I played a number of sports growing up. While I was never the tallest or strongest, I soon emerged as one of the fastest and relished my ability to outrun opponents, whether I was sprinting up the field to receive a pass, darting my way between defenders or scrambling to recover on a counterattack. When we’d do the PACER test in PE, I was almost always the last one dashing back and forth across the squeaky gym floor, with the rest of my classmates looking on, either in awe, spite or boredom. I was (and still am) a pretty shy kid, and it was the first time I can remember enjoying having that many pairs of eyes focused on only me.

I didn’t start cross country (XC) until my sophomore year of high school. I had known the XC coach since sixth grade, who told me I had the potential to become a great runner if I trained. After a disheartening (some might say traumatic) first-year soccer experience, I decided to throw myself at something new. I ran almost every day, quickly working my way up to fifty miles a week, and grinded in the workouts. I didn’t have the raw sprint speed of many of my peers, but I had something else that I learned to value much more: endurance. As I trained, I soon climbed to a spot on the varsity squad and began to pass runners I hadn’t even thought I could keep pace with. As I worked, I was amazed at how my times dropped at almost every meet. I almost couldn’t believe that in just a few months, my 5K time had gone from 20 minutes to 17:10. I was our school’s top runner.

Honestly, a large part of why I run is because I’m good at it and it earns me recognition. In races, when I’m alone up front with swarms of people watching and cheering from the sidelines, I’m brought back to that feeling running the Pacer test all those years ago in gym class. In high school, after winning a few races, I became fairly wellknown, even among non-runners. People would spot me jogging home from practice or going on long runs throughout the neighborhood. Many knew me as “that wild kid that’s always running,” and I loved and embraced that identity.

Off the cross country course, I thoroughly enjoy meeting my caloric needs as a long distance runner and, in large part influenced by my high school coach, have studied sports nutrition. For health reasons, I decided to become a pescatarian and aim to eat a primarily whole food, plant-based diet to fuel optimal performance. There are few things in life I love more than treating myself to a colossal (yet healthy) meal after a physically taxing run. My high volume training is, by necessity, mirrored by my diet and I relish every step and every bite.

The process of applying myself consistently and seeing results is addictive. One of my least favorite things to hear from my coach is that today is a rest day. I want to be constantly working, pushing myself to get better, and I used to feel that if I wasn’t running, I was wasting time. It’s taken a frustrating mid-season hamstring strain to show me that rest and recovery are necessary to staying healthy and being able to perform at your best. I still try to ride the line and do as much as I can while keeping away from injury, which is something I’m sure I will continue to struggle with.

Running gave me this feeling that wasn’t quite like anything else I’d experienced: pain. Essentially, everyone in a long distance race is trying to suffer in the smartest, most efficient way possible. The winner isn’t necessarily the fittest, but the runner that’s willing to suffer the most, to push their body closest to its absolute limit. I’m excited to continue to discover, test and push my own physical limits — I want to become that guy.

When I began looking at colleges, I knew I wanted to go to a school where I could continue to run competitively and push myself, and prioritize academics (and enjoy an allyou-can-eat dining hall). I knew I had found what I was looking for in Vassar. College running has presented a new set of challenges, but also a new group of friends in an unfamiliar place and more opportunities to push myself further and stand out.

Running has come to be such a huge part of who I am and if I (for some crazy reason) stopped, I’m not sure who or where I’d be. Whenever my family goes on vacation, after we unpack someone asks, “Where can Miles go for a run?” Considering what running has given me, I hope I always have an answer to that question.

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