There was something about running that took ahold of her. Maybe it was her early successes. Or, maybe it was just that she felt so great, so joyous, so natural, so alive, so free when she was running.
The path was not all paved with happiness, however. As the girl saw rapid improvements, her expectations grew at an equal pace. Her competitive ego always wanted better, to the point where she forgot about how incredible it was to run 3.1 miles without stopping. She lost sight of what an achievement and transformation that was for her. She simply said, ‘I need to get faster.’
There was success and notoriety, but with this, added pressure. Mostly self-imposed. She could never catch up to herself. With each new accomplishment, her expectations moved ahead at an even faster pace. Then came injuries and set-backs.
“I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never —”
“You lie,” he cried,
And ran on.
This poem spoke to her. She was 16 and already in therapy when she first read this poem in literature class. She related the poem to her running, chasing faster and faster times, greater successes. Years later, as an adult, she would realize that she lived her entire life according to this poem.
The day that she became a runner she also became a high achiever. She approached her workouts and races with a certain drive and determination. When she heard that carbohydrates were important for running, she became vigilant about eating pasta at lunch every day. Years later, when she was no longer the 75 lb skinny girl, but beginning to develop into a woman, she approached dieting with an equally intense and obsessive determination. Eventually, this behavior was termed ‘anorexia nervosa’, but in her mind it was the price of success. She was determined to succeed at all costs.
When she became a runner, she became someone who approached all of life with a certain drive and passion. She became devoted to making the best grades, creating artistic masterpieces, having the perfect body, striving to excel in all things she approached. For better or worse, she took everything in life to extremes.
And she tried to live by the rule to ‘never look back.’ Successful runners push forward. Turning back is a sign of fear, weakness. So, she continued to move forward, always working toward that next goal. And, she had some successes.
Unfortunately, she could never realize her success because her attention was always focused forward. She could not rest on her laurels for fear that rest would make her lazy. When she finished 2nd place in a race, there was still that one person ahead of her. For that matter, even when she won the race, there were still thousands of faster runners not in the race. And her focus was always on chasing what was ahead of her. She seldom looked back at the many more runners behind her.
And she never looked back at the tiny 12 year old girl struggling to run 3.1 miles without stopping. She had left that girl so far behind that the girl was essentially forgotten.