Dear Running: I've Lived Fully And Without Fear

Alyssa Hendrix is a senior at Riverview High School in Florida. She's a 1-time FHSAA Class 4A Cross Country Champion, a 2-time outdoor champion and 2-time Foot Locker Nationals qualifier. The future collegiate distance runner wrote an insightful essay about her time in the sport and reflects on what it's meant to her over the past four years. 

"The sport was perfect for me. Running was black and white. You either had the times or you didn't. And I felt like I could finally show people what I was made of. I could see how the results I wanted were a reflection of how hard I worked as an athlete." -- Alyssa Hendrix

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By Alyssa Hendrix -- Riverview High School

Dear Running,

To think how far I have come as a person in only four years of running. Crazy. 

There was the transition I made from the aggressive little soccer player who felt like she would never get an equal chance of showing who she really was as an athlete because of her size, to the runner I am today, to the athlete I am right now. 

Soccer had been my life for 10 years before running, and even though my love for it had been lost years before, I couldn't quit. Soccer had become my image. It was all I knew. And then you happened. 

Thank you for changing this lost soccer girl into the running fanatic she is today. 

My first year as a freshman was hands down the best.year.ever. I was able to see how my love for you grew and how my heart and hard work created the results I wanted. To this day, it's still hard for me to believe how, in only a few months of training and racing, I created such a strong passion for a sport I only thought crazy people did. I wasn't wrong. It still is crazy. 

However, I wouldn't have it any other way. 

When people ask me what my favorite race or favorite moment has been, they are often surprised by my answer. Being a 3-time state champion and a 2-time Foot Locker Nationals qualifier are great moments--and I will cherish them forever--but they are far from my favorite memories.

My favorite moment was placing third in my first state cross country race as a freshman.

I can still remember how nervous I was to line up with some of Florida's all-time greats, runners like Bailey Hertenstein and Rafaella Gibbons. When the race started, it was like all the nerves left my body. I shot out from the starting line and was able to stay in the top five before taking off and passing the girls ahead of me, one-by-one, in the second mile. 

With around 800 meters to go, I found one more gear and was closing in on third-place. I saw Rafaella. The margin between her and I continued to shrink drastically, and in my mind, looking back, I remember the crowd. This loud, ridiculous, wild yell. I could see them, my coach, and my parents screaming at the top of their lungs as I flew down the final hill. Here I was, Alyssa the runner making a move. 

And then it happened. I passed her, and I finished the season in a whoosh. That was the moment I fell in love with running. I still get chills thinking about it. 

It wasn't long after that race when I realized what I had to do. I dropped soccer and was determined to be the best runner I could be. The sport was perfect for me. Running was black and white. You either had the times or you didn't. And I felt like I could finally show people what I was made of. I could see how the results I wanted were a reflection of how hard I worked as an athlete. 

Over the years, I've seen how running has changed me to be the best version of myself. It's been an outlet for the stresses in life and it's made me feel free. The journey has definitely not been easy. 

Waking up early for hard runs before classes, missing football games and parties, and countless other high school activities. It's difficult. 

But I've had a goal and I've been willing to do what it takes to achieve it. I let God take the wheel in my life and I've ready for the plan he had set out for me. Whenever I'm faced with obstacles or injury, I always try to remember why I started and who I am doing it for. 

I have coaches who have helped me so much, a family who is so supportive, and there are so many other runners who I hope to inspire as an athlete - just like other runners did for me. 

So running, I want to thank you for challenging me, for being there when I needed you, and for being next to me when I was able to achieve my goals. 

Here's my advice for anyone reading this: You only live once, so don't forget to live it fully and without fear. Believe in yourself, even when your goals may seem far away. It's that belief-and your hard work-that are going to separate you from everyone else. Persevere through the hard times, embrace the good times, and remember what is important to you in life. What do you want to be remembered for? 

Running, thank you for shaping me into the person I am today and for giving me the life one can only dream of. 


Alyssa Hendrix, Riverview High School '20

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