My Runner Girl

I don’t know a lot about Cross Country Running as a sport that kids in school do. I know where it’s done locally because we have “Summer Runs” there every summer where Fleet Feet brings out their clock and people can run the 1-mile course at 6:15, the 3-mile course at 6:30, and then the 2-mile course at 7:15. I’m assuming the teams have meets at the same park? At least the local schools? Oh! And I also know it’s abbreviated XC because every summer they use that on the registration forms.

Last night was the first one of the season and I love these runs because there are tons of teenagers there as most local school make it a summer “requirement” of sorts for their Cross Country runners. Do I love the teenagers being there because of my affection for teenagers in general? No. I love beating them.

I have no idea how Cross Country running works as a sport, but I’m guessing the kids out there are not taking these Tuesday night runs very seriously because – without fail – every summer I get giant ego boosts from running past kids who should be kicking my ass. I guarantee you if we were racing they would be running faster, but they just seem to be out there for fun during these Tuesday night runs. This means I get to fly past 15-year old guys walking up the hill and I get to tell myself, Zoot is faster than athletes half her age! She is lightning! She is speed! Bow down to her as the running queen she is!


Anyway, it’s really good for an ego boost. I stayed with two young guys all the way until the end last night. There was a third guy in their group who I played leapfrog with for awhile, I’d pass him on the ups and he’d pass me on the downs, but eventually he faded and I took his place with his friends and hung with them to the finish. And I stuck all of that ego-building energy and stuck it in storage where I can use it on the days I get really down on myself as a runner.

But remember, Zoot, you are faster than some teenage Cross Country athletes!

(My ego knows how to ignore the part that they’re just goofing off while I’m running so hard I want to die.)

I took Nikki last night. She’s gone with me before but never as an “official” participant. She does the 1-mile course every time while I switch up the courses. She was getting tired at one point, kind stumbled in the woods, and said, “UG. I’m an awful runner!”

And let me tell you…I shut that shit DOWN, right there, on the spot.

I didn’t lecture her in the middle of the run, other than to say, “There are not many – if any – other 8-year olds out here doing this. You’re awesome, quit that negative talk!” But on the way home later? I lectured her the lecture to end all lectures.


Most people can walk, but not many can or will run. Anyone who is running, no matter what their speed or how often they fall, is a total badass. Do not get down on yourself. If you’re running? You’re a rockstar. Period. End of story. I am very proud of every run I do because I know many people who can’t and even more who won’t run. It doesn’t matter how fast I am, it doesn’t matter if I fall, it doesn’t matter who runs the most…all that matters is that I’m doing it and I’m going to be super-proud of every run I do. You need to be that way too. Every…single…run…be proud of it! There are a lot of things I get down on myself about in my life, and you have a lot of those things too, but let running be the thing you celebrate. Every time you make it out the door for a run, pat yourself on the back for being amazing and awesome. Because you are. And I will NOT let you spit out anymore negative talk about it. If you want to get better, we can get better. If you want to get faster, we can get faster. But we won’t do it by talking negative about our running because we are running when other people are sitting on their butt…and we will be proud of that.

She stopped listening after the first sentence, of course. But still! There was musical accompaniment and everything!

(There was not.)

I hated running as a kid. My Dad tried to get me to run with him when he would visit the local high school track several times a week for a run, but I declined 99% of the time. He never got to see me learn to love running. He saw me try to train for races, and complete them even if my training fell off the track (Hello 7:40 marathon time!) but he never saw me become a runner who simply has to run. And while I wish he could see that (he wouldn’t believe it, for the record) I really wish he could see Nikki’s natural desire to run. That was what he wanted me to have, he would look at her and see how much fun she would have been. Instead he was stuck with whiny, moaning, boring and lazy Zoot who would rather sit on the bleachers and read her Babysitter’s Club books than run even one lap around a track.

(For the record, I still hate speedwork on tracks.)

I’m proud of my girl. She’s up for the challenge of running and while she gets hot and miserable during the run, she always goes back for more.

5 thoughts on “My Runner Girl”

  1. A) Go NikkiZ! I bet you have run more this week than I have, but you and your mom have just inspired me to get off the couch (literally, that is where I am at this second) and go for a run. and B) Zoot, I am going to steal that pep talk and pretend that you were talking to me directly. That’s awesome! And you ARE lightning, and I bow down to your running queen-ness. 🙂

  2. Tell Nikki that she ran more last night than I have run in my whole life. Go, Nikki!!

  3. I love your “lecture.” It was perfect. I need to remember that for my 8 year old daughter. My husband actually IS a girls cross country coach, but he is at every practice, even the ones on the summer, so his team is forced to take it seriously. I love the sport, though…the girls really bond together and there is such a sense of comraderie in cross country. 😉

  4. I live in Auburn and take 3-5 mile runs early in the morning before taking the kids to school and going to work. Anyway, sometimes I come across the ROTC kids in the morning and I will almost die passing them as they half ass it while their hung over, but damn it I don’t feel awesome all day long!

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