This blog post was written by our winter semester intern, Logan Tallent. Logan will now return to her studies at NC State and we will miss her!
I think we all go through a time when we realize that in the midst of everyday life, we forgot to take care of one of the most important parts, our bodies. Thankfully, this caught my attention after I gained the notorious college weight over a year ago. I had always been physically fit and took pride in exercise, but somehow that part of me got lost in the everyday hustle. I decided this past November that it was time to fix this and began running 3 times a week.
The first day of this endeavor, I could not even run a mile. It hit me how much I had let myself go, but made me even more determined. With the encouragement of some sweet friends, I signed up for my first race- a 10k called the Cooper River Run in Charleston, NC. My competitive spirit along with the realization that I could easily embarrass myself in front of over 40,000 people kicked in, so I forced myself even on my tired and lazy days to get up and go run, many times with a grudge in my heart. Five months later, it was a week before the race arrived and I was excited to carry out the goal that I had worked toward.
Life has a funny way of happening during our big moments. Eight days before my race, I got a call from my very best friend about one of our hometown guy friends, Justin, who had been in a tragic accident. Driving home the next morning, it hit me that we may lose him forever. Two days later, on Easter Sunday, that thought became a harsh reality. That week I spent time with my friends, people who I had not made time to see because of the different paths we had taken, all who were mourning our friend who was only given 20 years of life.
When I left my little hometown of Lincolnton so that I could be in Charleston for the race, my heart was heavy and my body exhausted. The last thing I wanted to do was run this race and leave all my friends at home whose lives were now changed forever. That Saturday morning, I got up with my sorority sisters who had encouraged me to do this in the first place, grabbed my coffee, and chugged water. If I had come all this way, I was at least going to try and actually run the whole race.
When I got to the race, I was overwhelmed at the amount of people. There were 40,000 runners. However, that was not the surprising part. I was surrounded by all ages; kids who were running with their parents, young couples, elderly men and women. The most amazing were the 35 men and women in wheelchairs, who would make the mile hike up the Charleston Bridge just like the rest of us, with only their arms.
As the announcer sounded the start of the race, the anxiety began to leave my body. During that 6.2 mile run, I looked at all the other runners. I saw people running in honor of people who had died, friends in the hospital, causes like breast cancer, health initiatives. Everyone was running for more than themselves. They were running for a greater purpose, for a better life, a better world.
As I approached the last mile of my run, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The homeless, who resided in the downtown area, were on the sidewalk, screaming and cheering and helping the staff pass out water. They had nothing, yet they were cheering for a group of people who to them, seemed to have a light in the darkness. It was the craziest high that I had ever felt. It was a moment of time where I saw that I was part of something greater, we are all part of something greater.
I think there are very few times in our lives when we really had the opportunity to grasp this, the truth that in this world we are NEEDED- whether that means volunteering and changing a life, or simply being an encouragement by just living life. We ARE needed.
I share this to encourage you- YOU are needed. YOU are important. Justin was needed, he was important, and that showed in the lives that he left. So when opportunities for real change arise and the thought crosses your mind that someone else can do that, that you aren’t necessary or needed, remind yourself, that nobody can create change or be an encouragement in life the way you can in your own unique way. I truly believe you will find that personal, small changes, like a 10k or a day dedicated to volunteering, create a bigger, lasting change for not just yourself, but the greater world and picture that you are a part of.