If you’ve ever been to a public high school or have seen Mean Girls, you know the Nerd vs. Jock stereotype well. Maybe you even had Nerd vs. Jock day during homecoming week like my high school did. Either way, I know I fall on the nerdy side of the totem pole, and that’s okay.
Growing up, I never embraced athleticism. Of course, during my elementary school years I attempted to through karate, cheerleading and gymnastics. But I just never committed more than a year or two to any of them. By the age of 10, I was over it. I would much rather read and write short stories than get all hot and sweaty, an opinion that still holds true for me today. In the spring semester of my freshman year, however, everything changed.
It all started when my friend Christine casually asked if I would be her running partner and train with her for a 5K. I had no idea what I signed up for when I agreed.
We started training in February, following one of the various Couch to 5K apps. It set up our schedule for us, telling us when to alternate between walking and jogging at increasing intervals to slowly build our stamina. Developing the habit of actually practicing proved challenging, however, especially since running was something completely new to both of us. But having someone relying on you actually made it a little harder to skip.
Within two weeks we found ourselves jogging every other day. At first, we’d make jokes about how terrible the running seemed—dreaded anticipation would consume us as we stretched before each jog. We both had similar, more academically-oriented backgrounds, and agreed that finding the time to exercise often felt like a chore. We really only stuck to it because of each other.
It only took a few weeks of commitment for me to completely change my mindset. As a student who stresses out easily, spending 30 minutes three to four times a week exercising and bonding with a friend was borderline therapy for me. Within a month, I noticed improvements across the board.
Sleep came easier and better and being tired all the time was no longer an issue. I began carrying myself differently; I found myself feeling more confident and present without a second thought. The stress lessened substantially and I soon saw my grades improve. We were no up-and-coming star athletes, but we were turning into forces to be reckoned with.
Not only did our bodies and minds feel the impact of exercise, but our friendship did, too. We transitioned from housemates to close friends and found ourselves naturally spending more time together outside of our jogging route. Whether it be a late-night adventure or a nice warm hug when I felt lonely, Christine never faltered. After spending most of my first year at college homesick and depressed, things really took a turn for the better. And then before we knew it, race week arrived.
I’ve never felt so nervous to exercise in my life. Since our living community, the Southern Scholarship Foundation, hosts the 5K we ran, all my fellow SSFers would cheer for us. Not to mention we jog alongside a couple hundred other runners. Sounds scary, right? Naturally, as the week progressed, so did my nerves, especially since training was easygoing and we never actually reached the full 3.1 miles. The app we followed scheduled us on a nine-week program that we started too late to complete. Yikes.
I woke up the morning of the big day filled with nervous adrenaline. I barely held my breakfast bagel down during the drive to the course. Once we pulled in and saw the number of people there just to cheer us on, however, my nerves melted away. We stretched in the unusually chilly morning air for a sunny Florida day in April, and as we joined the mass of runners, I knew we had it in the bag.
“On your mark, get set—” BOOM. They fired the gun and we set off. Adrenaline pumped through my veins most of the route, but maintaining a jog the entire time? No way. I ignored the pain growing in my sides and limited our breaks as much as Christine allowed, but nothing could stop the joy and relief I felt when we crossed that finish line.
Our time reflected our newness to the art of running, but nothing could take away from how accomplished I felt. After training for two months and refusing to give up even when the going got tough, we’d done it. That feeling wiped out every hardship we experienced during training, and just like that, I was hooked. We celebrated with a Chick-Fil-A breakfast and vowed to stay running partners. Sure, we got lazy over summer, but it’s a new semester and yet another new mindset and opportunity for adventure. Now I should catch some Z’s—we’re going for a run tomorrow.