I began running in high school after reading some running literature. After running for four years in high school, though, I took a two year break from running to focus on studying.
During this hiatus from team competition, I ran on my own and in a few road races, and learned about calisthenics to stay healthy.
This break from running on a team was helpful because it allowed running and exercise to become a solitary activity that I could use to escape when my place at a Christian university made it difficult to feel comfortable as a Muslim.
I found this necessary especially when I heard repetitively from racially insensitive individuals that I needed to learn how to listen to others because my experience is not valid, or when I was intimidated by certain individuals to not approach people of authority for help dealing with religious intolerance.
But when one of my closest friends invited me to a workout with the Valpo Cross Country Coach late in my sophomore year, it felt like the right time to join a running team again.
That workout is the only reason that I managed to join the team. Walking on as a junior was definitely a good decision, but meeting the coach and knowing people who were already on the team helped a lot in my decision.
Running under Coach Straubel for just over a semester has already been wonderful. From that very first workout, it was clear that I would always regret if I passed on the chance to run under his guidance.
After Coach was aware that I wanted to join, it was just a matter of filling out paperwork and starting on a training plan.
I’m very happy to be on a team again, but having more control over my workouts was a meditative and relaxing experience that helped me learn how to deal with significant challenges and I am glad to have taken two years off.
One current challenge is the problem of falling behind; my teammates are all very fast.
Struggling alone without a strong religious community and running without the support of a team have helped me to understand that I can keep going even if others leave me behind for a time, but it’s much easier with peers who encourage and uplift me when it’s difficult.