Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sport- what it means to me

Every 4 years, when the Summer Olympics roll around, I am again reminded of WHY I became an athlete. I have been moving, shaking, having fun, competing. Doing SOMETHING since the time I can remember, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

While I was never "Olympic" caliber, I never believed that I couldn't be either. I tell this story to people infrequently, but I will share with all of you how I became so in love with this thing called sport.

As a girl, I was always moving 100 mph. My mom told me I could never sit still. Not so much ADHD, but more that I couldn't find my true focus unless I was doing something physical. As a small child, that involved nothing structured--riding my bike all day, playing at the pool for hours on end til my hair was green, or late night games of kickball with the neighborhood kids in the summer (which unfortunately in this day in age, is pretty much out of the question!)

I fell in love with volleyball in the 4th grade. I lived, breathed, died volleyball. Pretty much until my sophomore year in college. But switch gears back to 6th grade--my parents were divorcing, my body was changing, things were just in transition. And I gained the proverbial "puberty" weight. And the boys were mean. They used to "moo" at me, call me "cow" until I cried. And you know what? It just never stopped me from proving all of them wrong.

That summer, I was determined to become a healthier preteen. I started running--very slowly, but I was doing it. With my older-than-dirt Nike gym shoes, I ran around the block once a day. One lap turned into 2 and 2 turned into a 1-2 miles per day. I did this everyday for the whole summer. And by the time I reached 7th grade, I was feeling like a million bucks.

This love affair with running continued, despite my equal interest in becoming a volleyball stud. A stud I certainly wasn't but a hard worker, yes indeed. I ran on the weekends during high school. Sometimes ran 1-3 miles after volleyball practice. I joined the gym and began strength training at age 13 and continued throughout high school. The one thing my coach always found impressive was my work ethic. While she attempted to make the team strength train, do plyometrics, etc, most never did anything but play volleyball. She knew I was dedicated enough to hit the gym after practice. Run on my off days. Do stadium steps just to get better agility. My volleyball affair continued for 2 years in college. By Junior year in high school, I had been proving my skills as a setter for some Division III program scouts. Freshman and sophomore years I would play for Illinois Wesleyan.

After choosing to attend a larger school my Junior year in college, I continued to dabble in the love of running; entering 5k,10k, half marathon, and marathon events. All of these races continued to give me a purpose, desire, and dedication to the sport. I found triathlon along the way as well, which changed my life.

There have been many races of which I've completed. Some with PRs, some barely finishing and dragging myself across the line. Many that have brought me tears of joy and tears of pain. But all of them, each one, has helped to carry me through the journey. Because after all that's what its about. And the journey continues--whether it be a cycling stage race, a local 10k, or a step back into the world of triathlon.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, those boys that called me fat. Well, let's just say at my five year high school reunion, I had completed countless triathlons, I was training for a 2nd Ironman.

had grown beer guts.

Revenge can be so very sweet.


Jennifer Harrison said...

This is a great post, Mer...and I was thinking about all of this too - and the Olympics makes me think even more about SPORT and how awesome it is. Last night while watching Simon Whitfield come back for the silver for the men's olympics - I really thought, "it doesn't get ANY better!". :) JEN H.

Joanna said...

Oh, Mere... Excellent posting... Revenge is sweet!

kerrie said...

yes, revenge is sweet and sometimes can be a pretty powerful motivator!
glad that you made those guys eat their words at your reunion ;)

Jennifer Harrison said...

Where are you mere........calling.....calling.....calling...?? Jen H. :)