When I first shifted my identity from teammate to runner, I was in my sophomore year at Furman University. My roommate could have easily walked onto the cross country team and I knew there was no way that I could keep up with her, so I forged my own path into runner.
I began with the mall that run through the heart of campus. It was a one mile loop, but there were constantly cars, bikes and weddings to run past and there were eyes watching. As I panted and struggled for breath, I didn’t really want others looking on.
It was then that I started asking my incredibly fast roommate whether there were any other paths on campus. She responded energetically that she loved running “the trails.”
I was a little taken aback at first because running “the trails” conjured up ideas of dogs hunting, but I took her advice and tried trail running out one Spring afternoon.
As I made my way through the trees into the thin trail populated more by squirrels and chipmunks than people and cars, I knew that trail running was always going to be in my blood.
For those 10 or 20 minutes or once my training increased 50 minutes, I was alone with my thoughts, my worries and my frustrations. It was just me and the chipmunks figuring out what life really meant and reordering our priorities. For a college student, who lived in a dorm room that was actually smaller than a prison cell and shared a bathroom with 24 other girls, this brief reprieve from people became a fixture in my life.
Trail runner would always be part of my identity.