Hey everyone, my name is Jenny Sanderson and I am a senior in biological engineering. I was born and raised in the small, charming town of Bellbrook, OH (about 20 min south of Dayton). Outside of running I enjoy playing outside, reading books with dragons in them, and taking pictures of my cat, Kyrie Purr-ving. I’ve built up a small reputation of liking animals and have been known to shed a few tears if shown a particularly cute critter.
I know this blog is traditionally about how people started running, but the reason I started wasn’t anything unique. Starting something is easy, but continuing to do something, especially when it sucks sometimes, is where the real challenge lies. I joined because I didn’t make the volleyball team in 7th grade. I stayed because I made some friends and I was pretty good. I was so good that I earned a roster spot on the Ohio State varsity team at the end of my senior year. It was once I went to college though that my commitment to running was really tested.
The thing about running for a DI school is that EVERYONE is a state championship winning, record-breaking, hard-working overachiever. Unlike in high school where school and running success came to me easily, in college I had to bust my butt just to keep up with everyone. There are a lot of stories out there about walk-ons who became BIG 10 champions or qualified for the Olympic trials, I read a lot of them trying to convince myself that I belonged on that team, but there is a big difference between reading a happy-ending and actually executing it. I spent a long time pretending that I was happy, that being on the team was better than not being on it, no matter how tired, frustrated, discouraged, or overwhelmed I felt. By the end of my freshman year though, I couldn’t pretend anymore. I was cut. You can imagine how devastated I was. It took me months to even be able to tell people because I couldn’t bear to hear the words come out of my mouth. I didn’t know why I wanted this so badly. I never got to race and received very little reward for any of my efforts. There was a reason why I still got up every day and laced up my shoes, but I never stopped to consider what it was. I just ran and tried to keep up, no questions asked.
So I came to Running Club. Unfortunately I had a pretty bad case of the I-know-more-than-everyone-because-I-ran-for-OSUs and ended up having some pretty terrible seasons. I got injured and/or got burnt out by the end of almost every season. Still, my commitment never faltered. Whether it was an early morning long run on the weekend or a sweaty bike-ride watching daytime television at the RPAC, I did it. My training plan was basically “Run a lot. If you get injured, bike a lot”. So once again, I was really sad but convinced myself it was ok, that as long I kept running more, things would get better.
They didn’t. About two days before the first outdoor meet of my sophomore year I strained my hamstring during a workout. It was pretty bad. 6 months of biking, swimming, and physical therapy bad. Not to mention the biweekly mental breakdowns (S/O to my boyfriend Nick for listening to my unintelligible blubbering and crying for 6 months). At one of my appointments my PT told me that hamstring injuries were the number one career-ending injuries in the NFL and I about lost it. The peak was when I broke down sobbing in a restaurant when my parents took me out to lunch one day. It wasn’t just the injury that was upsetting me; it was that my running career had taken a downward spiral shortly after I graduated high school. My hamstring was really just the cherry on top of a failure sundae.
Eventually I healed though. With the help of my parents, friends, and all the medical professionals I saw, my leg got better. I appreciated my ability to run far more than I ever had before. More importantly, I began to think WHY I ran. WHY was I giving up a traditional college experience to spend my Saturdays at a track meet? WHY did I keep trying to run more when I just kept getting injured? WHY did I put so much time, money, and effort into this thing that has brought me so much disappointment? For a long time, I didn’t know specific answers to any of these questions. But, thanks to my inner pinterest-loving-girly self, I came across this Winston Churchill quote that provided something for the time being:
“Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about”
With this in mind, I began training for the indoor track season (I had decided to skip cross country after missing a whole summer’s worth of training). This time though, my training was different. I was different. I stopped expecting a huge break-through and started valuing my small accomplishments: not getting dropped on my long run, hitting my splits during a workout, or just running pain-free. Every run I finished with a smile, no matter how tired I was. I was thrilled just to be tired again. I began to see the answer to my question: why, in the face of so much adversity, do I keep running? It isn’t because I want to stay skinny, make new friends, am looking to “get involved!” or that I am training for some race. It is because I wholly and unquestionably love to run. I love the long runs that make me lay on the floor for a while after I finish because doing anything else is too much effort, the winter runs where I grow icicles on my eyebrows, the easy runs spent discussing the best Blink-182 songs, and the feeling of complete infiniteness that comes only from a runner’s high. It’s not a PR or a first place trophy I’m after, but the unparalleled feeling of knowing you worked hard and had a good race.
There’s no happy-ending to my story. No montage of me training in the rain and winning some big race. I have gotten faster, but I’ve also gotten injured again too. Getting injured is just a part of being a runner. So is self-doubt and wishing you didn’t have to run because you’re really tired. What gets me through it all is remembering not why I started running, but why I never gave up.