While cross country is not a sport where a bench is required, encouraged or used, I am a benchwarmer in the truest sense of the word.
The feeling of working as hard as I possibly can and still crossing the finish well behind my teammates is not a strange or surreal feeling for me.
After five weeks of this series, it is time I tell my own story.
I’m a runner. I have spent nearly eight years of my life sweating and struggling through countless laps around an unforgiving track, miles and miles of muddy, hilly and sweltering hot cross country courses, and workout after workout in the heat of midday summer or the icy tundra of winter. I have conquered both a half and a full marathon, and logged more miles than I can even count. I am a runner. But I am not a winner.
In warming the bench, I developed resilience.
Sure, it feels good to step up to the start line and know that you are most likely going to win. At least, I would assume. I can’t say I’ve ever experienced that feeling. But there is a certain insanity that comes with entering a race knowing that you will most likely lose. In putting yourself in this position, you learn that it’s not always about winning.
It is okay to fail. It is okay to fall flat on your face. You can get right back up again and keep chasing your dreams. In these moments, you learn that life isn’t about the glory. It’s about the journey, and regardless of the loss, you have enjoyed every step.
In warming the bench, I learned the importance of hard work.
It can be tough not to resent those who are naturally gifted runners. But their glory is short lived. They may have a wall full of medals to show, but they have not yet learned what it feels like to put your nose to that grindstone, or your feet to the pavement, and push forward, full force. In warming the bench, I’ve learned the importance of hard work. I may not be at the top of the pack, but I am strides ahead of the woman I once was. In pushing yourself to do what it takes to achieve your goals, in wildly and recklessly chasing your passions, you learn how important it is to be willing to work hard to get there.
In warming the bench, I’ve learned my place on the team is determined not only by my place in the race.
For my cross country team, I may not be the highest scoring athlete, or even an athlete that scores. But I know my place on the team. I compete intensely and beat my body and mind to work my way onto our conference squad. I show up to practice each day with a positive attitude.
I am quick to make a joke or give an encouraging word. My place on the team is characterized by the relationships I have built with my teammates, and the attitude I bring with me to every team event.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.