Dear Running: You Never Let Me Quit

Betsy Pollard is a soon-to-be senior at Western Branch High School in Chesapeake, Virginia. An injury held her out of her outdoor season, but Pollard has big goals heading into her senior year with the Bruins. She reflected on her journey with the sport in a 'Love Letter To Running' for MileSplit.

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Dear Running, 

You have taught me to pursue what I want, no matter the circumstances. 

You have made me realize that any difficulties I may face should not--and will not--squash my goals. From the very beginning of our relationship, you have pushed me to overcome any adversity. Where I saw obstacles, you gave me opportunity. 

Attending a school without a cross country or track team? Start one. No other girls interested in running on a team? Run without a team. No coach to train me? Go where the training is. 

You have inspired me to believe that there are always options, rather than to concede that there are none. When I was at a small private school in Virginia as a young freshman, I suggested to our headmaster that we start a cross country team. 

He agreed and within a year we had a boys and girls team, but when I asked if we could start a track team--a sport I had grown to love--he told me the resources weren't available. Still, he offered to let me run in meets if my mom agreed to be my coach. She accepted that challenge.

And I went from being a one-girl track team at a small private school my freshman year to running with Western Branch, one of the most reputable track and field high school programs in the nation my sophomore year. 

Running, you helped me manage all the emotions that came along with such a bold move--and I cannot thank you enough. By summers end, I was enrolled at Western Branch and excited for this new venture with you by my side. 

I still remember the struggle. Finishing in the back of the pack that first four weeks? It took a while to adapt. 

But those two-a-days? That new weightlifting routine? I kept at it. On those interval workouts, and that dreaded feeling of lactic acid? You never let me quit. You were always there for me when I needed it. 

In fact, you continue to be. 

Running, thanks for also introducing me to my best friend: Shardonnay Nichols. 

During the outdoor season of sophomore year, she drilled into my head that I could achieve my goal of a spot on the team's state 4x800 team. 

And thanks to her encouragement, and our persistence on the track, I ran a 2:19 at New Balance Nationals Outdoor. 

Less than a year of training with Claude Toukene, Western Branch's beloved coached, empowered me to drop 15 seconds in the 800. 

It's in that moment that I reflected the most. Pure joy. Doing what I thought was quite impossible, all because of you. 

You instilled a sense of hunger in me. During the indoor season, I dropped my 1K time from a 3:19 to a 3:03 in two weeks. I ran the 1K and 4x800 at states, and our team got second with a 9:17. 

Three weeks later, we ran a 9:14 out of the slow heat and missed All-American by just two spots. We were disappointed--I was disappointed--yes. But hopeless? No. 

You taught me how to cope with things like this and to maintain a positive outlook no matter the circumstance. 

This brings me to now, the injury. It kept me from competing my junior outdoor season, my favorite season. And it was impossible to hold back those tears, more than I can count. 

But you made me realize that this season was just a bump in the road, not a lifelong ailment. 

I believe this will make me stronger. It already has.  

I know what I need to do to come back strong--you've taught me that. 

Running, thank you, for teaching me how to persevere, for teaching me not be afraid of trying new things, for giving me new opportunities, for teaching me lessons on the track and in in every day life. 

I'll love you forever. Can't wait for our next adventure, 

Betsy Pollard