Dear Youth Run NOLA,
I have endless, bountiful, SO MANY thank you’s for the ways in which you have changed my life, and most of all, how you reminded why I love to run.
Reminded and taught me that running=
joy + community + endurance + people + glitter + red beans + long talks about zombie apocalypses + long talks about life + singing weird songs + jumping up and down at random moments + race day pep talks + tutus + beignets + king cake + music blasting at full tilt + pride in myself + pride in my team + pride in my city + not taking myself too seriously + exploring new places + putting down roots + supporting others + feeling supported + endorphin creator + ritual + team + family + TOGETHER.
And so so so SO many more things I could go on and on about. For a really long time.
Because you see, I became a part of the Youth Run Squad at a point in my life when running didn’t really mean all of those happy go-lucky feelings anymore. Running was a chore, a thing I needed to check off in order to say my day was “productive.” To say I was healthy. To say I was ok. Running, at that point in my life, was a crutch, a way to keep myself afloat.
I’ve been running in races since I was 14 years old–that’s 12+ years of throwing my hair back, tying up my shoelaces, and heading out the door. 12+ years of refining what kind of snacks I like to eat 8 miles in, what kind of shorts I wear when it’s raining, how fast my 400 m split is for a 10k, what angle to hold my shoulders on a downhill, ways to beat people on an uphill, songs I sing to myself when my body feels tired, words I bellow to myself when I want to give up.
Somewhere along the way though, running went from something I did to hang out with my friends and stay in shape for other sports, to a passion.
And then to an obsession.
I got swept up into this idea that in order to call myself a “Runner,” I needed to look a certain way or run a certain number of miles or eat certain foods or run a certain pace. I got caught up in this idea that to be a Runner with a capital R, I needed to push myself as far and as hard as I could go. And that I had to do this by myself.
So when I got accidentally swept up into (slash volon-told into) my first Youth Run practice, I had a cataclysmic, seismic, earth-shattering shock:
“People are running together for fun? People are running in tutus???”
Like I said, I’ve been running competitively for 12+ years. And never in those 12+ years have I learned as much about running as I have from you, my wonderful, amazing, and inspiring YRN family.
You’ve taught me that running is joyful, that a high five can make someone’s day, that I can do anything I set my mind to. And that I LOVE RUNNING!
One of the many amazing parts of my YRN experience is that I get to talk to the young people in our running fam about this exact thing— why do you love running?
And 99.999% of the time, they respond with:
Because it’s fun. Because I get to do it with my team, my friends, my family.
Youth Run is not a place or a moment or a medal or a PR. Youth Run is a family. A giant huge, hype, glittery family of Runners. All of us.
Because YRN has led me to believe that if you can run, you are a Runner. If you can move, you have the capacity within you to run. It doesn’t matter about where you were born, what kind of sneakers you have, what color your skin is, or what kind of gadgets you have.
If you run, then you are a Runner.
Thank you, Youth Run, for making me realize this.
And thank you for letting me be a part of your family.
So much love and so many happy hand dances,