“I’m not signing this contract. It’s a waste of time, just focus on your studies and get As,” my dad said as he furrowed his brows and handed me back the contract for Students Run Philly Style (SRPS). As you can see, my dad wasn’t amused about the idea of me joining a running club that was being offered at West Catholic.
My parents both immigrated from Vietnam and neither of them were able to accomplish a high school diploma. When they arrived in America, they immediately began working long hours. Something they’ve always told me was, “You have to do better than me.” I recalled back times when I went to my mom’s workplace and she was cleaning other people’s feet, and times when my dad came home with cuts and burns. I wanted to work hard to bring my parents out of that lifestyle.
In order to make them proud, I set a goal to both excel in school and join clubs that I thought would help me get into college. During the beginning of my freshman year, West held a club fair and I only applied for clubs that would help me with my resumé.
When I saw the word “run,” I immediately turned the opposite direction and started walking away until I was approached by Alexis, the president of SRPS. She told me about all of the benefits and how it had impacted past students. I hesitated at first, but realized it might be a great opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, meet new people, and finally commit to an activity.
“It’s unsafe, you could be hit by a car. You have responsibilities at home. Your schoolwork will suffer,” said my parents. We came to a compromise allowing me to participate for one season. However, they quickly changed their minds toward the end of the summer. Eventually, I did what every rebellious kid did: I snuck out every morning to run with the team. Despite my parents’ constant calls while I was out with the team, I made the decision to continue attending the weekly runs. The purpose of attending wasn’t about speed; it was about me being consistent and finishing what I started.
I remember our first practice for the marathon season. Everyone was ahead of the game and I was still a “newbie.” As the team sprinted off to get their miles in, I was running in a barren field. Halfway through the run, I saw people making their way back to school. They cheered me on the other side of the road. My adrenaline kicked in and I started to push myself, but was still dead last.
Even though I wanted to quit several times, I was encouraged by my teammates and mentors to stay. I couldn’t stand being last anymore and I wanted to quit. So I decided to run one last time, only this time I was running with Alexis.
We were running on the edge of Fairmount Park when she asked, “What’s on your mind, Julia?” I told her I didn’t want to run anymore if I was going to end up last and I had no more passion for the club.
Alexis responded, “It’s not about speed or being last. There’s been a time when I wanted to quit too. Although I don’t enjoy running as much as I used to, I stayed because it allows me to meet new people.” Alexis was right; it’s not about being competitive or being number one. It’s about running to keep moving forward, meeting new people who can relate, getting support, and being confident.
After three years of running, my parents finally gave in to the idea of SRPS. They never told me how proud they were, but showed it through their actions after my first Broad Street Run. After finishing the race, I headed home wondering if my parents would scold me so I prepared myself for a long lecture from them. When I met up with my parents, I confidently raised my medal and for the first time, my parents smiled from ear to ear.
Running is not a straight path, instead there are lots of detours. College is like an academic marathon. Plans won’t always go the way we want and we must take initiatives to accept detours. Being a part of SRPS offered me an opportunity of a lifetime and taught me valuable principles. I was able to be passionate about something I never knew would interest me and in turn, built my confidence to join other activities.