Running Track and Field Taught Me It’s Good to Be Selfish

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Running Track and Field Taught Me It’s Good to Be Selfish

I have been a runner all of my life; it runs in my family. The first squad I was a part of was in elementary school with my sisters’ middle school track team. My school didn’t have a team and my sisters’ coach saw something in me so he let me train with the older kids. He brought me along to meets where I competed and even placed in a few races. I remember my first newspaper article feature. Man it felt good to have my hard work on display for all to see.

Fast forward to high school. I ran XC (cross country) for North Plainfield High School for three years and track & field for two years. I received my first and only varsity letter for track & field my senior year. One of my last meets was the deciding factor in that significant award. I ran and placed 2nd in the 800 for that meet. Normally I didn’t run the 2-mile, we left that to our better distance runners, but my coach needed to pull one of the girls out of that race. My coach needed her for the 1-mile so we could secure first place in that. In order for my team to win the entire meet we also had to place first, second, and third in the 2-mile. We already had first and second place locked up, but we were not too sure about third since we pulled one of our usual girls out. I was the only other distance runner so my coach approached me.

“Brittany, I need you to place third in the 2-mile. Can you do that for me?” Coach D’s question was more like a demand.
“Yes. I got it.” I responded flatly trying to hide my mix of nervousness and excitement.

I never had such a huge weight to carry on my shoulders. The entire fate of our team winning this meet was up to me. It was not until I stepped foot on the starting line that I asked myself, “Who are you really doing this for?” The easy answer was my team. But once I started running and continued to dwell on my own question I realized that I was actually doing this for me. I wanted to place because I wanted that varsity letter, the cheers and the glory, and most of all to set a new personal record. I did not feel guilty about wanting all of these things for myself either because I knew they would help the team too. Yet, I also knew that if I did not place, I still had chances of running my fastest 2-mile ever and that still meant something to me.

I ran the entire race neck and neck with my competition. I used a strategy I’d learned from watching races on tv. I would trail the girl in front of me, which would make her run faster because she could hear me behind her. This caused her use more of her energy. Every so often I too would speed up and pass her, just to remind myself that I could do it. We continued like this for most of the race. The last two laps I told myself to think of it as an 800 and I took off. She never had a chance of catching me from that point on. As I neared the last curve of my last lap I picked up speed and sprinted toward the finish line letting the roar of my coach and teammates carry me through it. I’d done it. I won the meet for my team, set a new personal record, and secured my varsity letter.

Here are six things being a runner taught me that I carry throughout my personal and professional life. I decided not to define them because I think a few are synonymous with each other and because what they mean for me can be totally different for the next person.

  1. It’s okay to put your interests before anyone else’s.
  2. Your happiness matters the most.
  3. “Me time” is real and should be budgeted into your schedule if/when you feel it’s needed.
  4. It’s okay to leave early or not show up at all, and “it’s personal” should suffice as an explanation.
  5. Failing to live up to someone’s expectations does not exemplify failure; failing to meet your own expectations does.
  6. The same opportunity never presents itself twice, don’t miss out while waiting on someone else.

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it” – Henry David Thoreau


Brittany is an artist and marketing student graduating from Rutgers Business School this fall. She enjoys Couchsurfing, eating like a local and longboarding. She’s passionate about music and has a career goal of becoming a concert/festival photographer. Follow her on anybritt.com to see the world from her lens!

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