October 2022 Still Point

Submitted by: MU-COM

Author: Natalia Chablis Cooke, OMS II

Title: "Running"

Running; the sport that requires the athlete to compete against themself more than the other athletes. Traditionally successful running is receiving personal records and being the fastest on the course. It signifies you have mental toughness and physical strength to compete against yourself. I started my running career in middle school and have struggled with this belief of success. While I work hard at running and draw life from it, I’m not naturally talented at the sport. Cross country in middle school started as a path to connect with friends, but soon I started to improve and set my eyes on success, the cultural definition of running success.

A medical complication jolted my running career to a halt during the peak of my success. This complication was found after my meet times decreased and my position on the course fell to last place. The cultural definition of success did not define me. Coaches, teammates, and family members told me I wasn’t working hard enough mentally to compete against myself. Finally, there was a medical reason for my running failure, and these people encouraged me again. During high school running, I struggled with the mental remanence of my failure in running. My passion for running continued to lead me forward as I pursued running in college. My times and places in meets were not successful, especially compared to my peers in college and high school. Depression and anxiety started to cause my passion for running to sink away. I was comparing myself to my peers during practices, meets, and even in school, but ultimately comparing myself against the cultural definition of success.

I started to ask the question, why am I doing this if I am not successful? What is my “why” for running? Slowly I realized my “why” was the reason I started running in middle school. To enjoy the activity of running, pushing myself, and creating meaningful relationships with my teammates. When I realized this, I struggled with how to apply this to my college running career. I decided to start small and work from there. I focused on running with one teammate each day, asking questions about their day and life. Trying to get to know one teammate at a time, encouraging them as we ran.

I started to feel the need to write encouraging notes, so I started to write notes for my teammates to remind them of their positive qualities. The teammates I had connected with started to sit with me at supper. Soon the entire team ate supper together in the Dining Commons after practice. Classmates noticed and called our area the “Cross Country Team Tables”. Our team had tough conversations about religion, racial equality, and our purpose for running as a team. Members of our team began getting injuries and pausing their running careers. They started to question their “why” for running if they were failing at the cultural definition of success.

Together we all came to the same “why”. We pushed, encouraged, and helped each other through the struggles of life, running, and college. Slowly we began to become healthy, personal records were attained, and we became the fastest women’s cross-country team in our college history. My own running times improved as I focused on my teammates and enjoyed running. While the cultural definition of success eventually occurred, it was just a bonus. The real success came from our team coming together and becoming a family. Fulfilling our “why” is the true definition of success.

Success wasn’t a numerical equalizer like times and places. Success was the impact we had on each other’s lives and the positive impact on our own lives. My running career opened my eyes to not only my “why” in running, but my “why” in life. Is success in life about being a perfect homemaking wife and mother? Is a successful physician the top of their class, highest scorer on exams, and an academic surgeon? Those are the questions I currently ask; the beliefs I dare to challenge. I lean on my running career to guide me in how to challenge these beliefs of a successful physician and wife/mother. Success is not defined by the world, but by our “why” in life, because in life we are all ultimately competing against ourselves.