Photo credit: Shalu Mehta, Victoria News
It all started one winter during a string of sweaty elliptical workouts in the basement. My running enlightenment.
I had just finished a crushing sophomore cross country season where I fell agonizingly short of my goals. In a desperate search for an answer to my disappointment, I began to discover the best high school runners in the country.
As I leaned over the elliptical handlebars, I watched in awe as Aidan Troutner pulled off an upset win at Nike Cross Nationals, Katelyn Tuohy dominated the field, Reed Brown captured a Foot Locker title and Brodey Hasty claimed victories at New Balance Nationals. These races and the athletes who qualified for them didn’t feel real.
It all seemed like a completely different world — never something that was possible for me. Still, I’d step off the elliptical, wipe my forehead with a towel, and climb the stairs back to reality feeling inspired.
During the ensuing year, I worked harder than ever to improve.
I poured every minute of free time into learning as much about the sport as I could, rapidly discovering how much I didn’t know. While throwing everything into my workouts, I tirelessly read about nutrition, worked on form and discovered the purpose behind varying forms of training.
One of the biggest lessons I learned was that “more” is not always better. Going easy on easy days and taking days off vastly improved my performances.
Going into junior year, I knew I was headed for a breakthrough that was long overdue. I quickly slashed almost a minute off of my cross country PR. I won races, broke school records and even finished second at the State Final. Despite my progress, it was clear I still wasn’t at that “next level.”
Not even my coach believed I could qualify for either of the national meets.
In the postseason, it finally clicked. An unexpected third place finish at the Foot Locker Regional put a New Balance pullover around my muddy shoulders and solidified a ticket to San Diego. The next day, I woke up to a phone call from Nike offering an At-Large bid to NXN.
A few months ago all of this was a dream that I never could’ve imagined happening.
Sometimes you just have to believe in yourself.
Since then, running has opened doors all over the country. I’ve been lucky enough to compete in New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon, California and British Columbia. It’s been an honor to represent Michigan, the Midwest and the USA through the incredible opportunities I’ve been given.
The friendships and memories I’ve made during my high school career are ones that will last a lifetime.
The thing is, competing at a national level isn’t impossible. Just one year before becoming a Foot Locker All-American, I was 61st at the state meet.
Even now, there are good days and bad days.
All you can do is trust your training, put in the work and do the little things right. With focus and discipline, anything is attainable if you keep showing up.
If the coronavirus has taught me anything, it’s that I will never again dread a race or a workout. Our sport is fun. I spent years putting unnecessary stress and pressure on myself when I should’ve taken a deep breath and embraced the journey. As athletes, we improve by keeping our gaze fixed on the future but regardless of your level, there is something to be thankful for right now.
Gratitude isn’t complacency, and as important as it is to check off goals, we shouldn’t forget to celebrate the adventure.
It’s been an awesome ride, and I hope this is just the beginning. Regardless of what the future holds, I will always remember to appreciate the now.
EVAN BISHOP — EAST GRAND RAPIDS HIGH SCHOOL // UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN COMMIT
FOOT LOCKER ALL-AMERICAN
PAN AM CROSS COUNTRY CUP SILVER MEDALIST
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