• The Oval Magazine

Dear Running

Dear running,

Thank you. Thank you for shaping me into the person I am today.

I’ll never forget my first high school cross country practice, six and a half years ago. We ran around the soccer fields at my high school for what seemed like forever. Coach Gilli called us all in at the end of practice as the sun was setting and I ran over with the biggest smile on my face.

I got in the car and told my mom “this is it. I love this.”

I’ll never forget when Coach Gilli gave my sister and I our first watches, a gift given to him by the past seniors to give to runners he saw potential in. How crazy is it that the simple action of putting one foot in front of the other can turn into something SO much more?

That euphoric feeling lasted my whole freshman year. Lemme tell ya, fresh legs are the best feeling ever. However, there comes a time that every runner faces where the legs don’t feel good. When the legs go, it’s easy for the mind to go too. But somehow I still loved the pain, the hurt, the joy, the experience.

Thank you, running, for allowing me to go back to my freshman year self. Thank you running for teaching me what it means to fuel your body. To build it up, break it down, and rebuild again.

My junior year of high school, 4 years ago, I was slowly losing the love I had for running. Everything felt hard. I always felt tired. I couldn’t hit a pace. My mind started going with my legs and lungs. I overanalyzed everything just a little too much.

Quickly I learned what low ferritin felt like. I learned that my body wasn’t indispensable. I needed to fuel it like a machine.

Thank you, running, for introducing me to my love of cooking.

Thank you, running, and Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky, for teaching me how to fuel my body for performance. Thank you for introducing me to bison burgers (shout out to @runners.noms on Instagram… check it out). Thank you for teaching me that post-race tacos are a must and eating dessert is more than okay.

Thank you for teaching me I am human.

Thank you, running, for creating a bond with my dad and sister that will last a lifetime. I’ve never been so inspired by an adult in my life. My junior into senior year of high school my dad attempted to run 2017 kilometers in 2017. Little did I know that a secondary, more private goal was to do a run with my sister and I at our pace without slowing us down.

It was a cold and rainy November day in the midst of championship season in cross country. My motivation to get out of the door was little to none, but my dad said he’d run with Isabel and me.

We didn’t want to insult him, so we agreed.

We expected him to stay with us for maybe a mile or two, but 7 miles later he was still there. We stopped out watches at 7 miles and he was right there, dripping sweat, panting, but smiling. His determination and pure joy rekindled a fire in me. He taught me that running is fun and will always be fun as long as you find your joy in it.

Thank you, running, for giving me Isabel. Thank you for running with me every day throughout high school, kicking my heels in every workout, making running a team sport more than an individual one. Thank you for being my biggest cheerleader and hardest critic, for keeping me sane when my mind goes wild, and for being you unconditionally. And to everyone reading, please follow these social distance guidelines so I can run with her again, thanks. 🙂

Thank you, running, for bringing me a different kind of connection with my mom. One that isn’t

strictly based on performance. One that’s deeper. Running is my church, my religion in times when I feel lost.

Thank you, mom, for teaching me how to have that connection with running.

Thank you for teaching me to give myself grace in running, and giving me outlets outside of the road to find joy. Thank you for being my spin partner and yoga partner. Thank you for being the runner in the family before me, and letting fill in those shoes. I love you.

Thank you, running, for bringing amazing people to me. To Coach Gilli and Coach Destaso, thank you for being the launch pad for my love of running. Thank you for keeping me healthy and continuing to fuel my love for running. Thank you for continuing to inspire those younger than me.

Coach Dan, thank you for your longgggggg talks and never-ending knowledge of running. Thank you for running with me at American Tobacco Trail and around Town Lake and making every run fun.

Coach Devin and Coach Austin, thank you for believing in me every step along the way. Thank you for letting me be me unconditionally. Thank you for picking me back up when I’m down and never letting me forget why I love this sport.

Thank you running for bringing me all my teammates. From high school, to Duke, to UCLA, each one of you has inspired me to be a better me, a better runner, and a better human. Thank you for letting me one step you — and for that, I’M SO SORRY — and for pushing me harder than I could ever imagine. 

Thank you for laughing, loving, and doing this crazy sport with so with me. Thank you all for inspiring me daily.

Thank you, running, for giving me my highest highs and lowest lows. I’ll never forget all of the feelings of my senior year high school cross country season. The legs were feeling gooooooooooood. Thank you for giving me the unforgettable feeling of winning SMOC, a feeling I cannot wait to relive. Thank you for bringing me to New Balance Indoor Nationals and letting me run a 5k on an indoor track in New York City.

Thank you, running, for giving me outdoor track in high school and showing me how to get ready for the future. Thank you for bringing me Duke and UCLA.

But also, thank you for bringing me to rock bottom. Thank you for letting me blow up in workouts and races.

Thank you for teaching me that I’m not perfect. Thank you for knocking me off my high horse. Thank you for making me question my sanity, and constantly making me question why I do what I do.

Thank you for breaking me down, only to build me back up again.

Running, I hope you continue to inspire little girls and little boys all over the world. I hope you continue to inspire me and my teammates. I hope you continue to teach people perspective, perseverance, and patience.

Thank you, running, for everything. I’ll always love you.

Monica

MONICA HEBNER — UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES

5000: 16:45.62

10,000: 33:52.83

2019 NCAA NATIONAL MEET QUALIFIER IN THE 10,000

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