Dear Running: Dare To Be Great


Maddie Ullom is a soon-to-be graduate of Mason High School in Ohio. She's a Penn State University signee who owns personal record times of 56.59 seconds in the 400m, 2:09.95 in the 800m and 5:01.11 in the 1,600m. She's a two-time OHSAA state cross country championship qualifier and top 20 finisher in Division I and was fourth in the 800m outdoors in 2019. Here, in this Dear Running Essay, she recounts her career at Mason. 

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"You brought me to good people. You brought me closer to Jesus and you gave me forever friends."


By Maddie Ullom - Mason High School


Dear Running,

My oh my, what would I do without you? Ever since I toddled around the track on unsteady, excited feet, not old enough to even grasp the impact that putting one foot in front of the other could have, you have been there. 

My feisty five-year-old self and those little orange hurdles in the front yard; mom was hoping I would follow in her footsteps. Running around that little asphalt track in kindergarten, beating all the boys. I don't know quite how to describe it, but every runner knows that feeling. Your heart beats a little bit faster, an extra spring in your step, excitement and pure joy fills you up. 

It was during those early moments that a spark was lit inside me. 

I knew since forever that I was a runner. 

But you became more than just a sport, a pass time. You were a way of life, a passion, and a bond I shared with my closest friends and family. You were where I found my sanity. 

Putting on my Brooks Ghosts and pushing myself to the brink of exhaustion, the verge of collapse, is where I felt most alive. This is who I am.

I ran track in the summer when I was little, then for Mason in middle school and all through highschool, but I also played soccer. One of my favorite memories from my high school career was winning the state championship in the 4x800 in 2017. 

I will never forget that day. Those 8 minutes and 56 seconds felt like forever. The anticipation, everyone working together flawlessly, laying it all out on the track, watching the photo finish, and all the hugs and tears afterwards. There is nothing like going to war with your teammates. Those girls will forever be my sisters. 

It was because of them I decided to run cross country my junior year and retire from soccer after 12 years. It was where I was meant to be. Running with my girls. 

You brought me to good people. You brought me closer to Jesus and you gave me forever friends. 

Without you I wouldn't be who I am today. I wouldn't be running at Penn State next year. I wouldn't have found my joy again. 


But that's the beauty of it. There will be struggles. Running isn't just about fast times and hardware. It's about pushing yourself harder than you ever thought you could; giving it your best for your teammates no matter what. Daring to be great.

I have always battled with my mental health, ever since I was very little. Anxiety is something that I have learned to grow through and flourish in the last couple months, but it is an extremely difficult and constant companion to have. It can be debilitating, if you let it. I began to struggle during races. To others it looked like I threw in the towel; racing but not really there. But nobody else could see the war raging inside my head. It was very frustrating.

I have always fought for others, given my all for others. But because of you I have learned how to also fight for myself. 

Because of you, I learned to lean on those who love me and to let myself be loved no matter how hard it got. You were a constant through it all.

You gave me hope, and reminded me why I love to run. 

There will always be tough times and rough patches, whether mental or physical, especially given the nature of our sport. I remember at regionals last year, me and my teammate Faith Min were running the 800. Our region is notorious for having the fastest times in the state, which makes it hard to qualify sometimes. I was leading, so I couldn't see what was going on behind me or where Faith was. But as I crossed the finish line with a time of 2:10.96, I then turned and saw three girls: 2:11.17, 2:11.62, 2:11.71, and then Faith in 2:12.97. Fifth place. I started bawling, because after all the work we had done, all the workouts and races, we wouldn't get to battle with each other one more time that season. It turns out that she got the at-large bid and we did get to compete together.

But that's the beauty of it. There will be struggles. Running isn't just about fast times and hardware. It's about pushing yourself harder than you ever thought you could; giving it your best for your teammates no matter what. Daring to be great. 

Yes, I still have anxiety. Will I always have it? Probably. But I am daring to be great. 

I am so thankful for this amazing sport. For the perspective and strength that I have gained. For my teammates, my girls who love me even when I break out into British accents and floss during workouts. 

I am forever grateful for you, and the spark you lit inside me. 


With love,

 


Maddie Ullom

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A BIG THANK YOU

This will be the last Dear Running essay of the 2020 spring track and field season. We'd like to thank everyone who sent submissions in and we are looking forward to more in ensuing seasons.

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