Dear Younger Me: Dani Jones

"When you fall short, don't fixate"

University of Colorado senior Dani Jones, a two-time NCAA Champion and graduate of Desert Vista High School, wrote an essay to her younger self for MileSplit. 

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Dear High School Me, 

There are pages worth of experiences and lessons I have learned throughout the years that I could ramble on about, but I'll try and make this as brief as possible. First off, I would like to say how remarkable and absolutely crazy you are. Getting up early to run, stretching and doing core exercises, sitting in class all day, keeping up with homework, and to make matters worse, you're a teenager. You're teaching yourself what it means to work hard and set goals. Most importantly, you're managing those things while juggling a very confusing and awkward time in your life. 

But with this in mind, I would also like to say: You have a long way to go. And not in a scary or intimidating way either. Your life and career is only just beginning, and you have a lot of good, bad and ugly down the road. You have been fortunate enough to have stayed healthy throughout high school (for the most part), and you are growing to love the sport more and more everyday. It won't always be like this. Let's be honest, you're the athlete who sees injuries and thinks "that's too bad, but it won't happen to me." You stretch, you roll, you get a decent amount of sleep. You boast yourself for being the healthy one and you're healthy because you do everything right. 


Not exactly. I am so glad you are beginning to fall in love with this part of running. Recovery you'll learn, is just as important as the fancy, flashy track work. But when an injury does come, don't blame your preparation. Sometimes you can say you did everything you could and you still didn't get the results you were hoping for. That's what this sport does. It breaks your heart sometimes, and you're going to fall short far more often than you're going to achieve that lofty goal. Let me tell you something else: No one ever achieved anything without a good dose of adversity and failure. Embrace them. You'll be better off because of it. 

Stop looking around so much. Stop looking ahead, stop looking behind, and stop looking at everyone else. Focus on what's happening now, take one day at a time, and one run at a time. When no one takes a cookie at NXN, take two (because I know you want to). When she says her runs are faster and longer, don't resent her or question yourself. Be happy for her and trust your own progression. When you fall short, don't fixate. Take a day to be upset, evaluate and think about what you can do better, regroup and move on. And if you do reach that goal or accomplish something great, don't be consumed in compliments and criticism. 

Running will seem selfish at times, and there is nothing wrong with chasing a dream and focusing on getting better everyday. But make a point to serve others, to volunteer and lend a hand. Above all, be sure to express your gratitude to those who have served you. Family, coaches, friends and teammates (to name a few) have shaped you into the athlete and person you are becoming. It took an army, and you will continue to lean on them and need their support in order to accomplish what you want to. 

You're going to realize very quickly that your favorite part about running has nothing to do with putting one foot in front of the other. But it has everything to do with lifelong friendships you have with runners you met in middle school, high school, and eventually college and beyond. 

It has everything to do with the community that surrounds and builds our sport. It has everything to do with the places running takes you and will take you in the future, the experiences it gives you. And it has everything to do with that satisfaction you feel waking up before everyone else on a Sunday, getting on a dirt road and putting miles behind you, with no one around to see it but your teammates and coaches.

Its ok to not have it all figured out right now. 

Spoiler: You never will. 

22-Year-Old Dani

University of Colorado Senior 

2x NCAA Champ

Dear Younger Me Series:

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Jones After Winning The NCAA XC Title In 2018