Finding Your Space With Every Stride

The only PE experience I remember was during my elementary school years, with Coach Smith. I was playing flag football, and Coach put me in as a wide receiver. It was my first time competing against both girls and boys in a running capacity, and I loved every minute of it—especially as I discovered I could run faster than the boys.

My younger years were spent going to school, then hanging out with my three brothers. We were inseparable—riding our bikes, climbing trees, swimming, playing games like kick the can and baseball, and running races with the other kids on the block. Some of my best memories of growing up are of my brothers and me making bets in the neighborhood on whether or not I could beat the boys in a race. We were always outside, taking up space somewhere, anywhere, and having fun. It was during these times that I first learned that I enjoyed running, especially outside with my brothers.

During my childhood, I loved running; it brought a sense of freedom and power that made me feel invincible. I was good at it too, and my brothers would often brag about my speed, igniting a spark in me that would later fuel my passion for track.

When I was in ninth grade, I vividly remember the day my high school classmate, Monica, approached me in the school hallway and suggested that I try out for the high school track team. It struck me as odd. It was such an out-of-the-blue comment, but it made me think. Monica was quiet and always had a kind word to say. She stayed in the background and seemed content. While we were friends at school, we didn’t hang out after classes, and I didn’t have her address or phone number. Our relationship was limited to being mere classmates. The idea that I could run track puzzled me because I couldn’t recall us being in the same PE class, which might have been her source of inspiration.

At first, I didn’t give much thought to Monica’s suggestion. As a freshman, I felt like I was just taking up space in a big high school, especially because my older brother was part of the “athletes”—the cool kids. During my younger years and throughout our summers, we were always busy traveling to all my brothers’ football, basketball, and baseball games. I briefly played one year of baseball when I was young, but for the most part, I was a spectator, cheering them on.

As I watched from the sidelines, a feeling of being left out often washed over me.

Why didn’t they ask if I wanted to play any sports? Why was it always about the boys and their baseball, football and basketball games? I loved watching them play, but there was always an underlying desire to get out on that baseball or football field and show them what I was capable of. Instead, I would just go to the playground or sit in the stands, cheering them on until the games ended.

I don’t recall ever asking my parents to enroll me in ballet, dance classes, or any sports for that matter. Similarly, they never approached me about joining any activities. Instead, I would simply hop in the car, and we’d go watch my brothers’ games. I don’t think I knew, realized, or even voiced that I wanted to participate in sports or anything else until someone believed in my ability to run.

As I grew older, my perspective on sports changed. I had been content with being a spectator at games, thinking that was enough. Growing up with only brothers made me naturally competitive, and I always enjoyed participating in PE classes and being active outdoors. I had never seriously considered joining a sports team, however, until Monica suggested it. I ended up running Varsity throughout my four years in high school and was voted Best Female Athlete of the Year my senior year. I met some amazing people and formed some supportive and genuine friendships.

I guess because I never played sports in elementary or middle school, I hadn’t really thought about how being in that space made me feel free.

Running always made me feel incredible inside. It got my heart pumping and brought me immense joy and new friendships. My running has since turned into long walks with my husband and, on occasion, a friend or two. I enjoy both the physical and mental space during my runs/walks. I can think, laugh, share stories, or simply enjoy nature and the people I meet along the way. Running provides me with both a mental and physical space that feels absolutely incredible. I’m grateful I decided to give it a try, as it allows me to escape, clear my mind, and experience a sense of freedom like nothing else. The sheer joy and fulfillment I find in running have become an integral part of my life, and I cherish every moment I spend on the track or the trail.

Tina Huey is a mom of two fantastic kids and wife of her hero, who also happens to be an incredible dad and husband. She is an avid reader, and a life long learner. She enjoys exercising. She loves to laugh—to find the ridiculous in adversity. She is passionate about life and living it to the fullest, being the best version of herself, and helping others in a positive way so we can all make this world a better place.