James Dowdell


Running is a very interesting sport, mostly because of its versatility. You can run with friends or opponents, or solitarily by yourself. You can run at any time of the year, from summer to spring, and anytime from night to day. Running doesn’t require any equipment beyond two functional legs, and maybe a bottle of water. Most importantly, running can be either exceptionally difficult, or ludicrously easy, depending on how hard you make it.

Regardless of all that, there are two aspects to running that are very much unchangeable – it’s very easy to stop running, and it’s very hard to start again. Anyone can fall into the trap – from a race that spans minutes to personal recreation that spans months. I’m not an exception to the rule.

Of course, I didn’t actually realize that it had happened until recently, when I joined my school’s cross-country team. Having not run over the summer, I quickly realized the kind of work I was in for to get back up to speed – literally. Having been used to running 4 to 5 miles the year before, I was startled to find that I couldn’t even make 2 miles! Luckily, I have an understanding coach who simply said, “You’ll get better.”

And so the first week went by, and I rested on the weekend, barely able to move due to sore legs. I briefly pondered giving it up all together, but decided that one, that was quitting, and two, I would have gone through the first week – the hardest week – for nothing.

I started the next week with a can-do attitude, and more importantly, mostly rested and recovered legs. I found that things were getting easier, and began to say to myself, “Well, hey. This isn’t so bad after all.”

Of course, nothing good can last forever. I was just making my way up to 3 miles when the following Monday, coach passed out our meet schedule. Our first run was the Tom Brown Bash – and we were scheduled to run the two and a half miler.

It was not without some anxiety that I ran that Saturday. Naturally, I ran the first part too fast, and was spent about halfway through. I finally crossed the finish-line, gasping for breath. Later I ran into coach. All he had to say was, “You’ll get better”.

And so I continued to run over the weeks. I’ve been to one other meet since the Tom Brown Bash – it was three miles – and I did considerably better. I’ve worked myself up to just over 4 miles, and I’m continuing to increase my endurance. Every now and again, I find myself looking back on that first weekend, and I wonder why I really didn’t quit. Every time, I come up with the same answer. The real reason I didn’t give up was because I knew that, eventually, I would improve, and I would enjoy looking at how far I had come. I continue to improve every day, and almost every day coach will say to me “You’ll get better.”

This story was provided by James Dowdell, a runner on the Lincoln cross country team, coached by Perry Shaw. James set a new PR on Saturday at the Panhandle Championships.