‘Fitness is not a phase’

Editor’s note: William Blount High School sophomore Emily Guillaume is not only a multi-sport athlete, the Lady Governor distance runner, volleyball and tennis player is also an accomplished writer. Her thoughts running and an active lifestyle will appear periodically in “Blount Today Monday.”

It’s one thing to be a high-school track star. It’s another to be one at 50.

I’ve learned that true athleticism doesn’t come and go. Fitness is not a phase but a cycle, a state of mind that was, is, and will be.

True athletes know what I’m talking about. Being fit isn’t just a trend; it’s a lifestyle choice that requires sacrifice, a stick-to-itivness like no other way of life. It’s a culture with its own unique aspects and special citizenry. This selective group of people who choose this way of living are regarded as either crazy, insane, or completely out of their minds, depending on whom you ask.

But they are athletes.

And they don’t care.

They get up a 4:30 in the morning and spend two hours on a deserted trail in the middle of the woods in January. They climb the tallest mountain they can find. They run until their legs stop moving. They ride their bikes a hundred miles in a day.

Why? Because they can. Because it’s in them. It’s an itch, a buzz, a burning desire to do, to move, to live. Running, biking, hiking, swimming, climbing, sweating, pushing, grunting, letting it all out. Fitness isn’t just what you do. It’s what you are.

I became a runner completely by accident. As crazy as it sounds, it’s true.

Now I did purposely put on shoes and say, “Ok, I’m going for a run,” but my intention was not to become a runner. Let me explain.

Both of my parents are runners. For my entire life, they’ve been quietly going about their runs, entirely voluntarily and without forcing me to take part. And for most of my life, I, like most people, thought they were nuts. Insane. Delusional. I swore I’d never run unless I was chasing a ball. (Boy, talk about a big’ open mouth insert foot’ statement).

My parents took these comments in stride and never said a word in reply. The truth was, as I’ve now come to discover, that I was scared. I was scared because it was something I was born to do. I had the body for it; there was no denying that. I was scared because I thought I wouldn’t be good enough at it, or maybe it was because I could be good that really scared me.

I fought and fought with this notion of running for a while. It was a vicious cycle that was constantly tormenting me, eating me, biting at my heart, mind and will until I finally gave in. BUT, I still had no aspiration to become anything close to a runner.

In seventh grade, I decided that I was going to be a volleyball player. I discovered that I needed something in the off-season to keep me in good shape. Running seemed like the most plausible solution, so I tried it. Finally.

My first few runs consisted of one-mile laps around a trail that was close to my house. I remember feeling so accomplished when I finished two or three of them. Gradually, I began to notice something. Something I never thought would ever happen to me. I began to want to run. No, that’s an understatement. I needed to run. Running became more than just a part of my athletic endeavors. It became a part of me.

Ever since then, I’ve been running. And I’ve never looked back. Now I look at my parents and say, “I get it now.”

To those who don’t run, running will remain an immense and unsolvable mystery. To those who do, you feel me. You know what I mean. You can’t stop once you start. Running weasels its way into your heart, mind, body and soul and stays with you forever.

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