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Non-Winter Athletes

I have a very distinct memory of being 14-years-old and thinking I would run every day for the rest of my life. That wasn’t a frightening thought, rather the obvious, expected, even exciting conclusion I had come to. Simply put, running meant everything to me. In middle school, I’d been a two sport athlete with fall cross country and spring track and field. In 9th grade, indoor track (a winter sport) came into the mix and I immediately became a year round runner.

Of the three, cross country was my sport, the others, just a way to keep in shape and have fun with my friends until the next fall. That said, I was completely in love with distance running. My best friend and I would dissect every workout together and—after spending all day at school and practice together—would go home exchanging text messages about sore ankles and interval splits.

I was lucky to be able to continue running at my university for a couple years before health issues took me out of it. Needless to say, I had not run every day since I was 14-years-old. But the love of the sport never really left me.

I moved to New York City in January 2016 and eleven months later, while watching the New York City marathon in East Harlem with my brother, I made a mental note that I was ready to come back and more than that, I was going to run New York next year.

The New York Marathon is the largest marathon in the world and, as such, is notoriously difficult to get into. You can raise money through one of the charity partners. You can do the volunteering/other races in the series to earn an entry that way. Or, you can win the lottery. Three months later, in chilly February, I entered the lottery. And a few weeks after that, I received an email that my credit card had been charged. I was running New York.

What proceeded next was my Rocky training montage (minus the boxing). I signed up for a 5k—the first organized race I had done since I’d had to step away from the sport. While I certainly wasn’t setting high school records, the thrill of being in that community was all I needed. I signed up for a 10k next and shortly after began my formal training plan for the marathon. A month before the marathon, I raced a half—a distance I had run more times that I could count but never one I’d “officially raced.”

As the leaves ducked into autumn and my running shirts grew sleeves, it was time to run 26.2 miles through the boroughs of New York City. My first marathon was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I had never been more mentally, physically, and psychologically prepared for anything. I remember crossing the finish line. Hugging my family. Riding the subway home, my medal around my neck. Receiving high fives from strangers. Sleeping so well that night. It was unparalleled joy.

After the marathon, I took some time off and then settled into my own running routines—the kind you build around convenience when you aren’t training for anything in particular. And then winter.

And now winter. You see, I just completed my second marathon in December 2022. And, as anticipated, my running has dropped off a bit as it tends to do around the colder, darker months.

And I’m okay with that.

I think there’s a constant pressure we feel sometimes in any given sport, hobby, or activity, that we must partake at the same level of intensity at all times or we will lose our connection to it. That we must make something our whole world or else we aren’t serious or worse, aren’t worth being taken seriously about it.

I love distance running. But I won’t run in the dark. I love distance running. But I don’t love running when it’s 12 degrees outside. And none of that makes me less of a runner.

There are few things more influential in my early life than this sport. So many friendships. So much personal development. So many core memories made in my running shoes. And there was a long time where I thought I’d lost that.

But hobbies and activities and sports are allowed to grow with you. And you’re allowed to mold them to best fit your current world in a way that serves you.

In these darker, colder months, I replace a morning run with a morning walk—a pump up playlist with a catch-up call with my parents. I don’t rush out the door with sheet creases on my face. I start the tea kettle and I read the New York Times and I watch the sunrise from my bedroom window. In these darker, colder months I find breathing room for reflection and contemplation. I learn to listen for answers. I learn to trust myself.

So for all my non-winter athletes, or for anyone who has ever felt like a temporary pause means they’ve lost something: you are all the pieces of you in every season. A tree without its leaves is still a tree.

The days are beginning to stretch now. Gloves feel less urgent. And I can feel the itch to take off every time I walk through the sloping hills of my neighborhood. So I’ll listen. I’ll listen to what these quiet months have taught me about when to run and when to rest.

And I’ll know that I’m right on pace.


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