Before I tell you the name of the high school coach for which I am thankful, let me first say that she was never actually my coach. But because of the kind of person she was, I was able to set forth on a new path that I would have never considered before meeting this coach.
I went to an all-girls’ boarding school in Glencoe, Maryland called Oldfields School. I graduated in 1997 and, at the time, there were about 180 of us students in grades 8-12. Although I only lived 40 minutes away from the school, my home situation dictated that I be a boarding student.
So, in the fall of 1993 I arrived at Oldfields as a new girl and ready to soak up everything that I could. One of the things about the school that was new to me was the athletic requirement. We didn’t have PE class during the day like other schools so it was mandatory that you participated in an athletic activity after school each season.
I had never played sports before and my try out options were tennis, volleyball, field hockey (the largest fall sport at our school) and cross country. If you didn’t want to be on a team, you could take aerobics. Since I thought volleyball was cool, I figured I would try out for that team.
The volleyball team was coached by the Athletic Director, Beth Franks. Mrs. Franks was a very cool coach but she was tough. Try outs were not easy and I missed a spot on JV by only a slight margin. Since I didn’t make the team I figured that I would just do aerobics since I wasn’t really interested in the other sports and didn’t really know anything about them.
Mrs. Franks came to me a few days after the volleyball team had been set and suggested that I join the Varsity Cross Country team. Cross country? What’s that? I really didn’t know. Mrs. Franks explained that it was a small team with no try outs and that all we did was run. In fact, our the distance of our meets were only 2.5 miles. I told her that I would give it a shot because it sounded like it could be fun.
Well, it didn’t start out as fun. In fact, for the first half of the season I finished last in every single race. That’s right, dead last. I almost quit thinking that this wasn’t for me but I was kind of already committed. And it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy running, it turned out to be something I really enjoyed. I just didn’t like coming in last.
When it was time for Parent’s Weekend in October I knew it was going to be a tough couple of weeks. We were going to have a home meet that Friday and then another home meet on the next Wednesday, our regular meet days. Let’s just say that I’m glad my parents were not at the Friday meet because, once again, I came in last.
But something crazy happened on Wednesday. To this day I don’t know how everything started to click for me, but I finished that Wednesday meet in the middle of the pack! No more last place for me! That was awesome! Mrs. Franks had been right all along that this was a good thing for me. As I transitioned into soccer and badminton in the following seasons, I never stopped running. And by the time the next season came, I was leading the team on practice runs!
Even though our cross country team no longer existed during my last two years of high school, I continued to run and ran in my first 10 mile race during the spring of my senior year.
Throughout my time at the Naval Academy for college and in the years since, I have continued to run and use it as a way to feel at peace, meditate, and really show myself what I can accomplish. In 2008 alone I ran 4 half marathons. That was so cool! On January 30, 2011 I will resume my racing with the ING Miami Half Marathon with Team ASPCA.
I am not the fastest runner, but that’s not why I do it. I run for the love of running and the feeling of accomplishment I get from completing a run of any length. Mrs. Franks introduced me to a sport that not only helped my find my place in the high school athletic world, but also develop a skill that will last a lifetime. Although I had kind of given up on myself after not making the volleyball team, I’m so thankful that Mrs. Franks didn’t give up on my and sought out the perfect match for me. I will be forever thankful to Mrs. Franks for introducing me to the sport of running and changing my life forever.