Student athlete balances life and passion

By Zoe Doebbler

I am tempted to spit out clichés when I talk about running. I want to say the usual stuff

about how my sport “builds character” and is “better than therapy.” While I believe these things

are true, I do not want to talk about them.

After the clichés, the next words that come to mind are “pain” and “sacrifice.” I want to

address those concepts because they are the figurative meat and potatoes of athletics, and as

such, are the most rewarding.

Participating in athletics at any level requires commitment. As a cross country and track

distance runner, I log 40-50 miles a week. A typical run for me is six miles, which, depending on

how I feel, can take anywhere between 45 to 55 minutes. With the stretching, drills, weights, and

team meetings added in, I typically do not leave practice after school until 4:30 or 5 p.m.

Additionally, I run on Saturdays and Sundays and occasionally cross-train. All in all, I end up

spending about 14 hours a week on my sport.

Yes, it is occasionally a strain to run that much. But I do not really feel the pain and

sacrifice of sports until after practice. Unlike the majority of student-athletes, instead of going

home and vegetating after my workout, I go straight to work.

I currently average 18 hours a week as a lifeguard at the YMCA. I am lucky for the

flexible work schedule I can create for myself; in season I work less, out of season I work more.

There are no set hours. However, speeding to work from practice, forgetting food to eat, and then

sitting in a lifeguard chair for five hours to come home to homework is by no means easy. A

more accurate descriptor would be “hell.”

Between schoolwork, athletics, and other commitments to the Dance Marathon and the

newspaper, I sometimes feel like I am being tugged in 50 directions. I cannot offer a solution

to that feeling because I usually deal with it by panicking and regressing to a four-year-old state.

Interestingly, what has gotten me through all of it has been my sport. Cross country has

been my rock for many years now. Pain and sacrifice are second nature to me after having

logged well over 7,000 miles at this point in my running career. Having chosen a sport that is

focused on getting from one place to another as quickly as possible has certainly translated well

to other aspects of my life, like scheduling.

What it comes down to is that I love running. I cannot imagine my life without it. This

desire to run has propelled me to where I am today. If I take it away, then I am back to square


Quenton Cassidy, protagonist of the cult running novel Once a Runner, referred to Trials

of Miles and Miles of Trials. This concept, of life always throwing up hurdles and hurdles

being a part of life, is one any serious athlete understands and embraces. There are no end to the

obstacles that may prevent me from reaching my goals, but by persisting, I will succeed if only

for the fact I persisted.

I think about that when I want to quit my job or running or trying in school. It is a

balance and it is difficult, yet I have made it this far, so why stop now?

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