Dear Running: You Showed Me How To Be Tough, And Persevere

Maggi Congdon is a Steamboat senior from Steamboat, Colorado. She was the 2018 3A state champion in the 800 and 1,600, and the 2019 4A runner-up in the 800. In her essay she reflects on the impact of COVID-19 on what was to be her final season as a Colorado high school athlete, and how the sport and the current predicament has strengthened her for the better.

Dear Running,

I am not really sure how to start this so I guess I'll just start with saying what I have been telling myself over and over these past few hours as the news that the 2020 track and field season, my senior season, has officially been canceled: I still am so lucky to be safe and healthy because many people aren't.

I have been saying those words to myself over and over and over. I know that I am suffering much less than so many other people, but I am still suffering from this loss.

It wasn't as if I didn't see it coming. From the beginning this was the outcome I had been expecting and no I wasn't being pessimistic, I just have a habit of expecting the worst so I am pleased when it turns out better instead of being disappointed when there is an unfortunate outcome.

I was expecting this since the first time that meets and practices were canceled until April 6, and yet it hurts much more than I expected. My habit of preparing myself for the worst didn't work as well as I had hoped. And I guess that is why I am currently sitting on my bed typing this faster than my brain is thinking.

I know now that I will not have a state meet or normal graduation, so I need some form of closure. And I guess this is it. 

For my teammates...

I love you all more than anything. I am endlessly grateful for the support and love you all have given me and given to each other. I am constantly in awe of how much dedication and passion you give to this crazy sport of ours.

When I joined this team during my freshman year I was never ever expecting to create the friendships I have now. My love for running began because of its exciting competitiveness but it grew because of all of you.

I am trying really hard to not make this sound cheesy because every single word here is genuine but I know it's going to sound like some poem on a store-bought card.

This team is my family. I have never minded pushing myself and training hard because I know that you are all doing it with me and we are doing it for each other, not just for our own personal gain.

I am going to miss everything, but there's nothing I will miss more than blasting music on the bus rides (sorry to anyone whoever was trying to sleep....) and screaming the lyrics at the top of our lungs (thank you to Isabelle Boniface for always singing with me).

I'll miss the ten hour-long meets, delayed events, cheering on all of you through the rain, snow, sun, or whatever weather Colorado had chosen for a select fifteen minutes, getting sunburnt no matter how many times you put on sunscreen, and the stops at Lisa Renee and I's favorite: Whole Foods.

I'll miss watching you all push yourselves past your limits and accomplish something you never thought possible. Watching my teammates get a personal record is a feeling like nothing else.

Thank you for making every practice a new adventure.

I'll even miss waking up at 5 in the morning to drive to a meet (because we live far away from literally everything) because I never truly minded it since I got to be with all my best friends. If I had kept track, I have no doubt that 99% of the times I have laughed in the past four years have been with this team.

To the freshman - I am so sorry I never got to really get to know you, and I hope you know that although we are all separated, you are still part of this family. I am so excited to see what all of you accomplish in the future and I will miss you all so, so much.

I also know that right now it can be hard to see the point in training and it is hard to motivate when you don't have a concrete thing you are training for. But you do. Every run or workout you do now, is setting you up for the next season. No workout can ever be undone. Although you may not know exactly why you're doing the work, any training you do now still has a purpose.

If you are a senior and this would've been your last season, you are now training for life. Although this training may not result in a new PR, the mindset it creates is something much more valuable. Just getting out the door and training, when you may not want to, creates perseverance that will benefit you in so many other aspects of life.

And of course to make this even more cheesy, let's end with a quote: "This too shall pass." Any time you are struggling just try to remember that.

For my coaches...

I don't think our amazing coaches are fully aware of the impact they have on our lives, the impact they have had on mine is infinitely large.

Not only am I inspired by you guys every single day but I have learned so much not only about the sport of running, but about life from all of you. I know for a fact I would not be the person I am today without each and every one of my freaking awesome coaches.

You all always believed in me and everyone on our team more than we believed in ourselves. You showed me how to push myself more than I believed possible and I will forever be grateful for that. You showed me what it means to be a leader and how to always make everyone feel welcome. You showed me that running can be something much bigger than just running. You taught me how to work hard but rest hard as well. You taught me the importance of different workouts. You taught me that there is no special workout or key long run, it is about consistency (Glen Light).

You helped me develop my physical strength but more importantly my mental strength. You helped me through many ups and downs, any injuries, any struggles.

It's weird to think that just four years ago I didn't even know my coaches when now they are one of the biggest influences on my life. You pushed me but never pressured me. When I set goals that seemed crazy, you helped me accomplish them. I always admired all of your abilities to manage a group of 100 kids, that is crazy. When something didn't go the way as planned, or I had a bad race, you guys always said the perfect thing to make me feel better about it.

Thank you for being dedicated to this sport even when you have so many other things going on in your lives. Thank you for dealing with our poor singing on bus rides. Thank you for going out of your way to help all of us in any way possible. Thank you for your advice during races because all of your cheering is honestly the reason I finish my races. Thank you for making me the athlete I am today. I am forever in debt to each and every one of you.

To the sport of running...


I would have never thought something so simple as running could have shaped who I am and given me such amazing opportunities. I feel so lucky that this is not a goodbye to running since I have much more of it in my future (go jacks).

Thank you, running for showing me how to be tough and how to persevere. Thank you for introducing me to so many amazing people and for bringing me to so many amazing places. Thank you for giving me this fiercely strong passion. Thank you for giving me a way to ease any stress and for giving me so many adventures.

I'll admit, sometimes I hate you. In the middle of a race, I often question why I do this and why I put myself through so much pain until I cross the finish line and I realize why. That feeling, of crossing the finish line knowing you put every bit of yourself into that race, there is no feeling like it. The feeling after you just finished the long run and your body is tired and all you want to do is take a nap; that is also an amazing feeling. The adrenaline rush you get standing at the start line. The butterflies in your stomach during a warm-up. The will to run a little faster when you can't feel your legs.


Thank you for everything you have taught and I am very excited about our future together.

To myself...

I know this isn't easy news to process. I know that you had so many goals you wanted to accomplish this season that you won't be able to anymore. I know you had high hopes for a good season and I know you wanted to end your high school career with a bang.

I know.

I wish I would've known that that one bus ride with my team was the last, and I would've cherished every second. I wish I had run the two-mile at least once, but actually that's okay that I didn't, four laps are long enough. I wish I had soaked in every second of the practices we did have this season. But I also know that I'm going to be just fine.

Yes, I am very sad about this whole situation but I also know I am very lucky to be healthy and that my family and friends are healthy. And I am so grateful to all of the people working day and night to fight this. I also know that dwelling on something never helps.

The other day in my online Physics class which some of you were in, our teacher, the amazing Mr. Nilsson, shared a quote with us that has helped me immensely during this time.

The quote was "In each moment, we choose to either flow with life or fight with life. Either way, life goes on."

This quote has really helped me keep looking forward. We can take a moment and be sad about our situation, but then we need to readjust our focus and keep moving because life isn't going to stop.

This is going to end eventually and I want to be ready when it ends.

I will keep training and keep pushing myself because life is going to resume. Life is not one straight, smooth road. There are bumps in the road every day. Some are bigger than others.

I believe what defines you as an athlete is not how you act when everything is perfect and goes the way it is planned. It is how you act when nothing goes as planned that shows the kind of athlete and the kind of person you are.

I am not going to let myself wallow in my sadness because that is not the kind of athlete I want to be.

I will take this gift of time and freedom in training I have been given to grow and develop as an athlete so that when this storm passes when the sky is finally clear, I am ready.

With gratitude and love,

Maggi Congdon