Dear Running: You Have Shown Me The Power Of Community

Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/MileSplit

Ruth White is a high school senior from Orono, Maine. The Boise State University signee is a two-time Foot Locker Nationals qualifier who is coming off a sixth-place performance at the race in December, earning her first All-American finish. She is also a multiple-time Maine Class C state champion who owns outdoor PRs of 4:58.65 in the 1,600m and 10:30.49 in the 3,200m and is a three-time New England cross country champion. 

Dear Running,

You have been a part of my life since my earliest memories. More importantly, you have brought people into my life for as long as I can remember. Young, old, famous, ordinary, runners, non-runners and everyone in between. You have introduced me to these people in many different ways and on different levels.

Nevertheless, each and every one of the people you have introduced me to has taught me one common thing: community is immensely powerful. Whether it is big or small, metaphorical or literal, community has great impacts.

Which brings me to Orono. This town has always physically been home for me. My true place in the Orono community, however, has been shaped by running.

At the age of five I started participating in the Red Riot Track Club -- Orono's youth summer track program -- as I followed in my older sister Nora's footsteps. Proudly wearing my gray "Red Riot Track Club" cotton T-shirt with a maroon flying shoe and maroon words, I became part of the local track community.

I carefully watched the high school track athletes demonstrate how to leap into the long jump pit. I watched them smoothly pass the baton, demonstrating relay handoffs. I then passed the baton with my teammates, my friends. Little did I know, just 10 years later, I would receive the baton of coaching.

As a five-year-old, I idolized the high school athletes. I wore a rolled-up maroon bandana as a headband to track meets because I saw my coaches wearing them. I high-fived my competitors because I watched the high school coaches turn and high five their competitors after finishing races. Libby, Jordan, Stephen, Lily, Jake, Hannah, Kassidy, the list goes on and on. They all taught me sportsmanship, a love for running, were influences and role models, and helped me understand the power of the track community.

One of the best birthday presents I have ever received was a run. It was not just any ordinary run, though. It was with the high schoolers, my heroes.

It was a typical April afternoon in Maine. The temperature was moderate, the sun was barely peeking through the clouds and the snow banks had recently melted, leaving mud everywhere. 

Hannah, Kassidy and Lily arrived at the door. They greeted me with "Happy Birthday!" and offered to take me for a run. Suddenly, the afternoon became special. As we ran down the river trail, they talked about the workout that they had done earlier that afternoon at track practice. While we only ran about a mile and a half, likely shorter than the warm-up they had done at practice, the impact of that moment was long-lasting. It brought me happiness. It taught me how significantly a simple act of kindness can change someone's day, even someone's life. It showed me the effect that older athletes can have on younger athletes and how the interactions between athletes of all ages builds a larger community.

As a high school athlete today, I still run down the same river trail where Hannah, Kassidy and Lily first took me. I greet people who I pass, including strangers, mountain bikers, my math teacher with her brown and white dog and the lady with short white hair that always walks the trail. 

"While we only ran about a mile and a half, likely shorter than the warm-up they had done at practice, the impact of that moment was long-lasting. It brought me happiness. It taught me how significantly a simple act of kindness can change someone's day, even someone's life."

Some people respond, some people say "good job," some people look at me like I am crazy and other people cannot hear me through their earbuds. No matter the reaction I get, greeting others makes me feel united with both the strangers and the regulars on the trail. 

It makes it feel like home.

When I run down the streets or past the elementary school playground, I often see athletes from the Orono youth summer track program. I make sure to greet them by name, returning the acknowledgement that I received from the high school coaches when I was younger. I strive to be like the role models that I had and to contribute to strengthening the local community.

Through my experiences with running, I have realized the power of larger communities as well. Community is not limited to a town, and not even to a state. I have been fortunate enough to meet runners from across the country, all of whom are part of the running community. The kindness and inspiration that I have received from other runners has shown me that the running community is boundless.

Thank you to each and every person who plays an important role in the running community. Thank you, Running, for showing me the power of community.

Ruth White

Orono High School

Class of 2024 






If you are a track and field athlete or coach interested in contributing to this series at the state or national level, please send your essay to MileSplit USA editor Cory Mull at, or to your local MileSplit editor in your respective state.