Dear Running: You've Shaped The Person I've Become

Connor Nisbet is a senior at Wilmington Friends School in Delaware. The future Princeton University student-athlete spent three days interning with MileSplit and wrote a Dear Running essay describing his experience in the sport, from its highs to its lows. With just a few more weeks of his high school career left, Nisbet is hoping to make a few more more memories on the track. 

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"I felt like a fish out of water in school. But running, you taught me how to walk around with swagger, how to find my place."

Dear Running,

You've led me to places I couldn't have imagined before.

I remember the first time my dad and I stepped on to my local high school track to run what would be a staple workout when I was in the fifth grade, "a few 400s with a few 200s." The 90-degree heat was radiating off the track like a hot breath. I was dressed in baggy tennis clothes, clearly not ready for the run ahead, and without the understanding of where this particular workout would take me. My only direction was toward the next rep. You were simply a means to an end.

You brought excitement in surprising places

Moving through middle school, this local track at Brandywine High School became a regular part of my schedule. These Sunday grinds became part of who I was, that 1.2 mile run from our house to the track, with my spikes and Gatorade bouncing in my hands along our warm-up run down the sidewalk. Turning the corner, we saw the track and threw down our stuff, bubbling with anticipation.

You taught me how to fake it 'til I make it, even when I lacked confidence myself

Entering a new high school at Wilmington Friends after a half a decade with the same group of kids was frightening. Being pushed into an uncomfortable environment where I knew no one seemed like an insurmountably tough situation. I felt like a fish out of water in school. But running, you taught me how to walk around with swagger, how to find my place.

You helped me grapple with failure and success, and dually move on

When I started running, the PRs and wins were euphoric and the losses and disappointments were crushing, but the further I dove in, the more I found how to appreciate the sport for the value it held. Here's what I realized: Appreciating the opportunity of doing what you loved, with my closest friends, shaped me better than any win could.

You taught me how to learn from myself

For most of my high school career, my identity as a student-athlete was shaped around you. But once I was brought out of the game this winter, I had to learn how to cope with an injury and stay motivated after being sidelined for three months. I went from feeling like I was on top of the world--winning my third Delaware cross country state title and qualifying for Foot Locker Nationals--to devastation after finishing third to last at Nationals and discovering I had a fracture in my foot. While my competitors and teammates were running PRs and collecting titles, I spent my practices on the bike and in the pool.

You helped me build relations that will last a lifetime

Running has been much more than a sport; it's been a family. With four years of seniors cycling through and freshmen coming in, and with the competition and camaraderie across interscholastic competition, I've built a network of friends and teammates who make this sport deeper than just competition.

You showed me not who I was, but who I could be

You have helped me open doors and form connections that would never have been possible before. The first time I stepped on my local track, I never could have imagined that running would have led me to Princeton, to an entirely new life, for this sport to once again shape a life ahead.

Running, thank you for everything.

Connor Nisbet, Wilmington Friends '19