Why we play

Photo courtesy of Jason Cirrito

Running is often a punishment. It hurts. A lot. Yet, I choose to do it every day for hours. It is my main sport. How can I be so addicted to running?

Let’s rewind a couple years. Going into high school, I was an all-around athlete who played

soccer, basketball and tennis. I first decided to try out for the soccer team. I made the team, but I was clearly not the best player. I tried to enjoy the sport, but I never truly had fun. My eyes tended to drift towards the track where my brother and the cross-country team ran. I also went to my brother’s cross-country meets and watched some kids in my grade laughing as they played Kan Jam. I was jealous. And after hearing my soccer coach call me a “waste of speed,” I realized this had to be my last year kicking a ball. Come the winter season, I tried out for the basketball team, something I was super passionate about. I did not make the team, but I needed to stay in shape so I could make the team next year. 

Enter winter track. At first, I wasn’t too excited to run. Running didn’t sound fun. It sounded painful. And it was. My first-ever track workout went uncompleted as I fell onto the ground after my fifth rep. However, I felt something. I felt that I had achieved something. Weirdly, the pain in my legs felt great. I felt accomplished since I had pushed through and had the endurance to make myself feel this way. And there was something different about this team. I found myself smiling more and I enjoyed my teammates’ company. 

Then came my first race. I pushed my body to its maximum potential that day and surprised a lot of people. After my race, I was in a lot of pain. The best pain I can think of. My teammates rushed up to me and carried me. I felt supported, and I felt I had a team worth supporting. Still, I didn’t feel completely satisfied. I wanted to run faster; I wanted my time to go down. In future meets, I always had that same feeling: a need for speed. I stacked personal bests on personal bests until the season ended. I dropped tennis for spring track in an instant.

The spring season was incredible. I found a drive I’ve never felt in my entire life. I was addicted to getting faster, feeling the pain and supporting my team. By the end of the season, I became one of the fastest freshmen in the county with a sub five-minute mile. But I needed to get faster. I dropped soccer for cross country and, just like that, I was a three-season runner. I was a top runner for Miller Place throughout high school, always looking up to my older brother, a consecutive county champion.

Running became my life. Members of the team became a second family and the only thing

getting me through school was the promise of practice later in the day. When the Cross Country State Meet got cancelled in 2020, I cried. During quarantine, I ran 100 laps around my backyard (my ankles did not enjoy the workout). With all the uncertainty, I relied on my superstitions: I believed in lucky pins, a lucky softball and lucky socks and wouldn’t risk going without them. 

In the end, I am addicted to running for four reasons:

  1. I love my team and my coach. Without them, I don’t know if I would have continued

running throughout high school or even in college.

  1. I love the pain. I know what the pain means; I know I am getting stronger.
  2. I have a need for speed. I want personal bests more than anything.
  3. And yes… I also like it because I am good at it. It’s fun to find what you’re good at and

get recognition for your hard work.

Running is the most challenging team sport. In running, I am responsible for doing my job. My

single performance affects the entire team. This idea of putting faith in every teammate along with the fact that we are all feeling the pain together allows for more team-building than in any

other activity. The main reason why I run is because it creates close connections within the team.

Running also relieves stress and anxiety, something I think many of us experience. It’s weird

how running can cause so much pain, yet you can also run your pain away. There is a

difference between needs and wants. I need running. And I don’t know who I would be or where

I would be if it weren’t for the sport.

I have only run for Vassar Cross Country for a couple of weeks, but I can already say I will be running another four years for this program. The coaching staff has already put so much care into the athletes and the team has already become another family of mine. I want to get faster. I want it so badly. So, I am going to do it. And I am going to love it.

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