In honor of BibRave’s Release the Runner initiative, here’s my college essay about running

Life before smartphones: I don’t have many photos of myself running as a teenager. This photo is from the school yearbook — and I was also on the yearbook committee, so I could make sure it wasn’t a bad one.

When did you become a runner? Running became more a part of my life as I realized I wasn’t that great at other sports. I’d played rec sports growing up and hadn’t participated on any travel teams, which led to disappointment when I tried out for high school soccer and basketball.

But if you know me now — and know how much running is a part of my life — I couldn’t have made a better choice when I decided to participate in cross country instead of soccer my senior year of high school. In fact, the paper I found dated Oct. 12, 2007, is titled “Making the Right Choice.”

That was the essay I submitted with my college applications. I would have needed to write a college essay anyway, but a college essay was an assignment for an AP Literature class I took.

Last night, I participated in a virtual happy hour with members of Team BibRave and fellow BibRave Pros, and we talked about BibRave’s new initiative called Release the Runner, including how we got started in our running journeys and things we wish we’d known when we got started. It occurred to me that I could share the start of my running story by sharing what I wrote twelve-and-a-half years ago.

BibRave’s Release the Runner logo

I started running during the summer of 2004 because I had to run a sub-8:00 mile to make it on the high school soccer team. I did that, but I didn’t make the team. I ran track for four years (and even tried pole vaulting one year), but I really found my groove during cross country as a senior.

Over the years, I’ve become more involved with the running community — both in person (before social distancing was a thing) and online. I am always excited to welcome new runners to the sport.

I’m the Eastern Shore Running Club secretary and initiated the club’s group runs in 2016 (currently on hold for COVID-19). During group runs, I stay with whoever is at the slowest pace and encourage anyone to join us. Don’t be intimidated by hearing the words “running club.”

Here I am with fellow Eastern Shore Running Club members at the St. Michaels Running Festival in 2019.

I do recommend getting fitted for shoes — running stores are not considered essential businesses, but you can support our local store, VP Shoes, at

Pace and distance don’t determine whether you’re a runner. I’d recommend erasing the words “only,” “just” and “slow” from your running vocabulary.

There are plenty of people who run but don’t consider themselves runners. Or, maybe you’d like to start running but aren’t sure where to start. Please let me know if you’re interested in getting started, and if you’re local to me (Salisbury, Maryland), I encourage you to join the Eastern Shore Running Club and our Facebook group.

One key aspect of the running community is that it’s welcoming. And that was the case back in 2007 and still holds true in 2020.

What’s your running story? If you’re already a runner, encourage your friends to #ReleasetheRunner by sharing your story on social media with the hashtag. You can tag some friends that you’d like to join the running community.

I enjoy being a pacer at half marathons. This is from the OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon in 2018.

Here’s my essay — which earned a 66/66 and a “Nice job!”, by the way. In this retyped version, I made the two small changes my teacher had suggested. I don’t have the actual essay I sent, so I’ll assume it was the same as this, or at least pretty close.

Also: I definitely wouldn’t consider myself shy now, and after years working at a newspaper and freelancing, I’d have changed a few things about this: shorter paragraphs, no exclamation points and no use of “you” in a paper.

But without further ado…

Making the Right Choice

“You can be on the team, but you can’t play in any games.”


I hadn’t run as fast as I could, played as hard as possible, scored a goal in the scrimmage, and waited in this alphabetical line of soccer team hopefuls just to hear that.

I had been expecting an answer more like, “Yep. You made it. See you tomorrow.” I had been on the team last year, and had barely played at all. But I felt like this year, I’d been doing better, and would maybe get not a lot, but a little more, playing time. Last year, it had been almost embarrassing to be part of the Varsity girls’ soccer team because I barely ever played. It often felt like people were examining me and thinking that I didn’t deserve a place on the team, or wondering why I was even there.

I really can’t believe that I was considering returning to the team on these conditions. I guess I just thought maybe I could convince the coach to change his mind.

Here I am after finishing my first marathon, the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon, on Dec. 7, 2013. (Michael Piorunski photo)

When telling me this fateful news, the coach had also suggested that I may want to try cross country. So I was having a hard time choosing between soccer, where I didn’t play a lot, but had many friends on the team, or cross country, where I might do well but wasn’t sure if I would really fit in. After being cut from the JV soccer team in ninth grade, I had worked really hard to stay a part of the soccer team after making it in tenth, and wasn’t sure if I was ready to give it up.

But I did. And I couldn’t be happier with my decision! It surprisingly, since I am somewhat shy, started out good because I really felt like I fit in and everyone was extremely welcoming and friendly. The first day of cross country practice that I went to, there were time trials to see who’d be on Varsity for the first race. I got the fourth-best time out of about twenty runners! At that first meet and the next one that our team attended, I continued to stay a part of the Varsity group, at about the fourth spot, even though this was only my first year joining the team. However, at the South Carroll Invitational meet, when our best runner was unable to run, I finished first for our school. I think this raised my level of confidence about 100 points. I love the feeling that you get when you finish a race and know that you did really well.

I really like this action shot of me from the PHUNT Trail Race. (Photo by RunningMadPhoto)

In the three races that have since followed, I have placed second for our school, and done pretty well among the total number of finishers. I had also just beat a goal for myself that I had set for the season, making me feel like I can accomplish anything. Finally, I could be one of the best people on the team instead of one of the worst. Not only was I a benchwarmer in soccer, but I had gotten cut from ninth grade basketball and had always been a JV track team member, rather than Varsity. I’d never really stood out. But now, because of my hard work, along with talent, I could be a Varsity runner. The coach even recently talked to me and said that she was glad I’d decided to run cross country and said that I was doing well this year so far. I was glad to have her support, and it is also very motivating to have the whole team, our team’s fans, and even fans from other teams, cheering me on. If they believe in me, it makes me feel like I can believe in myself, too. Watching the timer at the finish line while running my hardest at the end of a race is a much different feeling than watching the time wind down, wondering if I would ever play in a soccer game. Once in a while, I miss being on the soccer team, but I’m so happy on the cross country team that I know I made the right choice.