During the last months in high school all seniors proudly wore their new college colors, while I wore a smile from ear to ear. Nobody quite understood why I would possibly take a year off and travel to learn a new language. It was unheard of and unfortunately for most, looked down upon, but I couldn’t care less. I was going overseas to surround myself with a new culture, language, and to meet new people and I couldn’t be more excited to dive into the unknown.
I was absolutely right to be thrilled, as it was the best year of my life! It was also the year I trotted into every bakery I’d find, and taste all the delicious wonderful bread that I still miss daily. After a couple months, however, I realized that I had gained a couple extra pounds, but I also knew I wasn’t going to stop eating pretzels and jam-filled croissants. So, I did the unspoken and signed up for my first ever 10k race.
Luckily I had a great and diverse support team, half of them encouraged me to step outside and go on 5 mile runs, while the other half encouraged me to sit down and try yet another mouthwatering meal. After months of running through crunchy leaves, snow, and slush I became familiar with running. I remember one specific run, it was late afternoon just before the sun would set. Just as I was about to give up and start walking, I conquered the killer hill and got a glimpse of the sun slowly making its way down behind the Swiss Alps, reflecting its subtle shine across the beautiful Lake Constance. On this day, I knew I had become a runner and there was no going back.
Finally, the day came when I had no other choice but slip into my worn-down running shoes and tie the laces up tight. It was race day. All the runners and cheerleaders crammed in the back of a familiar VW van and we headed to the start line. I munched on an apple before the race to calm my nerves, finding out later, that apples aren’t the best pre-race snack (fellow runners will understand). The fake gun sound went off and I started off strong with a grinning smile. Slowly, I began to lose familiar faces and I was left with just the trail, the crisp air and my trusty sneakers. The trail is one to remember. Fresh, soft dirt cushioned my feet as I trotted between rows of towering trees, which housed singing birds and playful squirrels. In that moment, I forgot I was running and realized I was living. In that instant I was alive. I kept running to find symmetrically lined apple trees, which led to a field of sunflowers that gently overshadowed my 5’3 self.
The dirt turned into gravel as all my senses came back to realize that I was almost at the finish line of my first ever race. I sprinted my way to the end, not because I wanted it to be over but because I was so overjoyed to be there, that I couldn’t contain myself. I crossed the line to a crowd of my biggest fans, all whom had finished way before me, which was alright with me. My first 10k has been one of the most inspiring and memorable outdoor experiences, I’ve ever encountered.