Dear Younger Me: Nick Symmonds

When MileSplit asked me to write a letter to my younger self, I initially declined. I imagined my letter breaking the time/space continuum, educating my younger self in some way (big or little) and that bit of knowledge radically changing the way my life unfolds. You know, the butterfly effect.

Truth be told, I'm so happy with where I am today that I would want to end up right here again. But I carried around a secret for most of high school and doing so stressed me out immensely. I was afraid to share my secret because I thought doing so would disappoint people. Sorry to do this to you 14-year-old Nick, but in the letter below I expose your secret. I have to in order to help you deal with some of your fear and anxiety.

Hey, 14-year-old Nick,

You are about to start high school, and I know that equally excites and terrifies you. At 5 feet tall, 95 lbs, you are going to be the smallest person in your class freshman year. Puberty is still a LONG way off for you. You're a late bloomer, it sucks. The next four years will be good, but they will also be very challenging.

You started running because you are too small to be competitive at the sports you really love: soccer and ice hockey. Coaches encouraged you to go out for the cross country team, and even though you didn't care for that suggestion, you decided to give it a try. You will show up to practice grudgingly and will resent the early success that you have. You will walk the halls of your high school carrying a secret around with you. I know your secret: YOU HATE RUNNING. 

Sure, you like some aspects of it. You like the guys on your cross country team. You like being outside. You like chasing the geese at Ann Morison Park during practice. And I know you REALLY like that practices are co-ed. But I also know that you really hate distance running. You hate the intervals, the hill repeats, the lifting, and even the easy runs. You hate the team T-shirt the seniors forced you to buy that reads, "Our Sport is Your Sport's Punishment." I know you threw that shirt in the bottom of your bag and thought, "That's EXACTLY what this is, PUNISHMENT!" I know you hate the nervous feeling you get before competition and that you spend nearly every waking hour the day of a race trying to figure out a way to get out of having to run. If I throw up after lunch, they won't make me run. If I roll my ankle during warmup, they won't make me run...

I also know you love to win. You love winning so much that it kind of makes up for all the things about running you hate. Early on in your running career, you will learn that to win at anything you have to work HARD. This is an important lesson, and it is running that teaches it to you. In fact, running ends up teaching you more about yourself and about life than nearly anything that you will do. It gives you a sense of identity and a good dose of confidence during times when you really need it. In school, the time you spend with your teammates will create some of your longest-lasting memories. Later in life, running takes you around the world, including Beijing and London to compete for your country in the Olympic Games. 

Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, running finds its way into your heart. Even when you are no longer training for anything, in particular, you will crave the run. You will truly come to love running, to need it. Certainly, you will always hate some aspects of it, but along the way you come to appreciate all the wonderful things running gives you in return for your hard work. 

So, keep lacing up your trainers. It gets so much better. Love you, you awkward little guy,

33-Year-Old Nick
Two-time Olympian
CEO of Run Gum

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