I have an old pair of Brooks running shoes that I can’t seem to get rid of. I got them the fall of my freshman year with money I saved up from tips while working at a frozen yogurt shop. I gave a lot of free samples and smiled way too hard at customers, but eventually I earned enough to pay for these shoes that would become my prized possession.
As a child I was active, but was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma. That meant swimming, jumping on the trampoline and especially running made me winded and caused my chest to feel tight and shallow. Because of this, I never could run very far.
The summer before I came to college I wanted this to change. I decided I wanted to become a runner. I bought a pair of New Balance running shoes, told my ambitions to my allergist, and suited up to meet the trail with my emergency puffer in one hand and my I-pod strapped to my arm.
I started out with a walk-run-walk method I found in Runner’s World Magazine. The walking part was very successful, but when I had to run a .50 distance I found myself laying in the grass asking God to have mercy on my soul and my lungs after only a quarter of a mile.
I thought it would never get better. But I kept trying. I enrolled in a Bikram Yoga class during my rest days and the heat and stretching slowly loosened up my tight quads and seemed to allow more air in my lungs.
Each run seemed to get better. In my mind, I would say, “Just one minute longer.” And to my surprise I was getting faster, going longer and I could breathe. One balmy July morning, I told myself, “Today is the day I am running a full mile, no matter what.”
I put on my “you got this, girl!” playlist, stretched and ran from my front door to the park. It felt like such a breeze running this day, and I was actually enjoying it. I looked up and I made my mile in semi-decent time and was having such a grand ole time I turned around and ran all the way back home.
Take that, weak lungs! I felt like I had qualified for the Boston Marathon, and I decided I would keep up with running throughout college and that, soon, it would be time to get a real fancy pair of running shoes.
I ran almost every day of freshman year and found it as a great stress reliever. Soon, I was running 2 to 3 miles a day and was developing a real bond with my shoes, they were my friends!
I ran with them all around Maryville College, the city of Maryville and all through the college woods. During my sophomore year, my roommate loved to run too and, although we came from totally different backgrounds, running was our bonding time.
It was with her I learned how much longer you can go with a friend. Soon we were running 4 to 5 miles easily each time we went for a run. We talked about faith a lot, sometimes boys and sometimes we just ran in silence enjoying companionship.
My shoes were really wearing down at this point, but I couldn’t let them go. They survived me tripping multiple times on trails at IJams nature center, they followed me to Ecuador and back, and, although they were starting to cause me more trouble, I wasn’t ready to break up.
At the beginning of my senior year I got a bright turquoise Fitbit and started to run at 6 a.m., so things really got intense. Dragging myself out of bed seemed almost impossible, but, when I met my running partner and we pushed through the first mile, I always knew I made the right choice.
On mile three, I could always count on seeing the sunrise—streams of purple gold and yellow broke through the morning sky over Lloyd beach and it started my day off well, I felt connected.
One day I looked down at my watch and saw that I ran seven miles! I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe that something so difficult became achievable. I couldn’t believe that I was really running. And I couldn’t believe my green and blue Ghost 6’s got me through it all.
My mom and other family members finally held an intervention for me and told me my shoes looked “busted.” In October, my mom gave me an early birthday gift—Brooks running shoes in my style but updated to a new and improved version.
I felt like I was betraying a dear friend. But it was a necessary change. Now, after a bad knee sprain and a few lost toe nails, my old shoes sit nearby a bookshelf, only seeing sunlight if I’m working in the yard with my mom or going for a slow walk.
And when I put on my new shoes, they never feel as good as the old ones. But I’ll never forget them and what they gave me. The confidence to know that I can finish something well, the determination to see the sunrise at 6 a.m. and a platform for the tiny voice inside of me that says anything is possible.