Faith Duncan is a rising junior at Lebanon High School in Ohio. In this Dear Running letter, she recounts her trying year on the track and shares how the support of her coach helped her to remain positive and drive toward the finish.
"Running, it's been quite a whirlwind, and through it all, I still love you."
-- Faith Duncan
Though I like to think it was love at first stride, you have never let me have anything easy, that is for sure.
For the longest time, I devoted so much time and energy to you, hoping to reap the rewards. At first, I thought it was a fair trade; I put in the work and trusted you to gift me with records, wins, and fast times.
But I've learned a lot over the past year. Life is not necessarily fair, and sometimes, Running, you take more than you give.
After fracturing my pelvis at Eastern Relays my freshman year, I was lost. I wanted you back even after you had hurt me so badly. And just when I thought I had you, you turned on me again -- a stress fracture in my left foot. I suffered through fifty weeks without racing (not counting two with a stress fracture), and it was then where I could only dream about winning a state title. I began to question everything and even wondered if God just wanted me to quit.
I had always trusted my coach and trusted the process, but I never understood how much he wanted success for each hard-working individual in order to drive the entire team to success ... not until this track season.
Typically, I set high goals for myself at the start of each season and talk them over with Coach, but this season would be different. I now had only one goal: Stay healthy. Coach took the time to write a training plan for me, mixing running with cross training -- mostly biking -- to obtain a high volume of training with low impact. But I was skeptical; it was a strange adjustment for someone who had always poured their heart and soul into the process.
And ultimately, I had the highest of highs and lowest of lows through the season. Some races I would win and have a solid performance, while others I would get shelled by girls never before near me. Most days, I felt like I let my teammates and coaches down. But they never gave up on me.
Going into the regional track meet in May, words could not explain how nervous I became. I could only think of how embarrassing it would be to not qualify for state after placing so highly my freshman cross country season. Before the race, Coach told me exactly where he would stand each lap, to provide information about the competition and where they were to me. Something about knowing that really helped in calming my nerves; his plan had worked thus far for the season, so why would it not get me through a single race?
As we lined up, I did not feel the same nerves as before. I thought about how, no matter what, this race couldn't end any worse than my other epic failures earlier in the season. I thought about how Coach would talk me through the race.
And lastly, Running, I thought about how much you had taught me to suffer.
You taught me how to deal with physical pain -- suffering through a cracked hip at the end of a race.
You taught me how to deal with mental suffering -- I would never forget all that time away from you.
I knew I could suffer more than any of those girls. And I thought to myself, 'Maybe I wouldn't win state as I had dreamed, but I would get there, and I would deserve it more than anyone else.'
When the gun sounded, I took it out hot. I went straight to the front.
Largely, it was because I disagree with tactical races -- it's not in my nature to sit. I wasn't about to let someone out kick me at the end. But looking back at the race footage, I see how much I looked like an idiot, putting a gap on a field with some super elite girls -- Taylor Ewert, Samantha Bush and Savannah Roark.
But at the same time, I am proud of what I did to create that gap. All or nothing, am I right?
I did qualify for state, and though I did not place how I wanted -- and I may have shed a few tears -- my coach was there to remind me that the ultimate goal had been accomplished.
I made it through the season healthy.
I'll admit, there were points when I didn't enjoy you, points when I wanted to throw in the towel. But on those days, I learned I needed to trust Coach and understand that, someday, the struggle will have been worth it.
Running, it's been quite a whirlwind, and through it all, I still love you.
Lebanon High School, '21