How Running Changed My Life
  • February 3, 2016
  • Run: “To go faster than a walk; specifically: to go steadily by springing steps so that both feet leave the ground for an instant in each step.”

    Based on Merriam-Webster’s definition, the word “run” doesn’t seem like much fun. Not many people want to have their “feet leave the ground for an instant in each step” for a long period of time and neither did I. Running has always been a part of my life, but it took a while for running to become a part of who I am.

    Running runs in my family. My dad is a runner — growing up in the small town of Norfolk, Nebraska, he broke records at his high school. He still holds the record for the 110M hurdles at Norfolk High. After graduation, he went to the University of NebraskaLincoln, where he continued to run track on a scholarship.

    Growing up, my parents enrolled me in community track and field, often with my dad as my coach. I participated as an athlete, but that wasn’t all — my dad was also the community track commissioner. And when your dad’s the track commissioner, you end up doing more than participating. My spring Saturdays were spent at the local high school track, either running in races or running results sheets to and from the press box.

    I loved it, but I was far from a track star. Throughout my middle school years, I continued to dabble in running. But by the time I got to high school, I figured it was time to call it quits. I wasn’t really interested in sports, let alone track or running. But my parents had a different plan in mind.

    “You’re going to join the cross country team,” they told me. “It’ll be a great way to make friends!”

    I adamantly disagreed. I was not — I repeat, not — going to join a high school sport that only involved running.

    Boy, was I wrong. As it turns out, I was going to join a high school sport that only involved running. And as much as I hated to say it, I loved it.

    I ended up being a cross country team member for all four years of my high school career. My teammates and I ran through wind, rain and heat. We conquered hills, mud, injuries and exhaustion. I experienced the highs — like beating my PR — and the lows — like running in a race while I was sick with a cold.

    But more importantly, I made friends. When my parents “forced” me to sign up for the team, I had no idea that I’d create as many memories and friendships as I did. Over the years, my teammates and I laughed together and joked around on a daily basis. At the season’s annual fun run, we climbed trees to cheer each other on and then ate bagels when the race was over. Every year, we consoled each other during the dreaded 9-mile training run.

    Cross country made me rethink my attitude about running, exercise and camaraderie. When I graduated, I missed it.

    After high school, I continued to run fairly regularly. A few college friends and I enjoyed adventuring outside for runs, no matter what the weather was like. My passion for running even led me to complete my first marathon last October.

    I grew up with running all around me. It’s always been a core part of my life. But it took a deeper understanding of effort and goals and companionship and joy for running to take hold and change my life.

    Running changed my life

    Community track, 1999: I’m the blonde girl in the front row and my dad’s the coach.

     

    Running changed my life

    High school cross country days.

    Running changed my life

    My parents with me after I finished my first marathon.

     

    About Erin Dietsche

    Erin ran track from an early age, but it wasn't until her parents "forced" her to join her high school cross country team that she fell in love with running. Since then, she's become an avid runner and learned how to balance her running with her interest in eating chocolate. After graduating from the University of Iowa, Erin began her job as a writer for a healthcare publication. Outside of her job, she enjoys playwriting and checking out everything the Chicago theatre scene has to offer. When she's not writing, reading or running, Erin likes listening to rap music and playing the piano.