Guest Post: Trials, Smiles, and All the Miles

Happy Sunday SRC! I hope you had a great week and that you have something exciting to look forward to this next week. Today we have a guest post for our Smile Sunday from Minori Minagawa! 

Minori  ran for Ohio State University and currently is running for the CRC Elite Team. She studied exercise science in undergrad and currently is in her second year in the Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program at Ohio State. She has a twin sister, an older brother and a younger sister. She works at a locally owned running store called Columbus Running Company on the weekends. She loves her french bulldog. Her name is Piper 🙂

Trials, smiles, and all the miles

That’s the quote I have written on my training log because running has been nothing but that; lots of trials, yet so many smiles with my teammates while grinding through many miles, rain or shine.

Trials, Smiles, Miles

I don’t think I’ve ever really given anyone a good answer to the question:

Why do you run?

There are so many reasons why and it’s hard to explain in a short amount of time. It’s like trying to explain the entire Star Wars series to someone who’s never watched any of the movies. But before I talk about my WHY, I have to give some background about my running experience.

My first encounter with the sport of running started when I was in 7th grade. I joined the Dublin Sells Middle School track and field team with my twin sister, Sakiko. I was good enough to run at invitational meets but I didn’t necessarily enjoy running; consequently, I spent some time doing field events like long jump and even discus. While participating in cross country and track during middle school, I was focused on competitive gymnastics, so it wasn’t until high school that I decided to take on distance running seriously. In fact, my success in high school athletics began in gymnastics. As a freshman, I became the first gymnast at Dublin Scioto High School to qualify for the state meet. I qualified again for state the following year, but by junior year I decided to quit gymnastics to make running my main focus. I had made it to states in track and cross country several times through high school, but it wasn’t until senior year track season that I even considered collegiate running. Although I was well aware that my times didn’t quite meet the recruiting standard, I reached out to the Ohio State coach at that time.

Fast forward to the summer of 2012. I started as a walk-on for the cross country and track team at The Ohio State University. Even through three coach changes, I made steady progress during my 4 years as a Buckeye, and had an incredible experience. I was truly blessed to have had Coach Vergote and my teammates. The women on my team have seen my highs and lows and they were people I could count on. They have become some of my close friends; although I am no longer with them all the time like when I was on the team, I’m grateful for all the unforgettable memories we share.

As a walk-on who was barely able to break nineteen minutes in the 5k, I would have laughed if you told me all the things I would achieve during my time at Ohio State. I lowered my PR’s every year and at the end of senior year, I finished on the podium (7th place) in the 10k at Big Ten Championship and competed in my second NCAA East Preliminaries. Although not all the goals I had were achieved, I’m proud to have represented the Buckeyes. I ended my collegiate career on a high note and I knew I wanted to continue to train and tackle on my post-collegiate goals.

Summer 2016, I joined the Columbus Running Company Elite team and was motivated to start training. That same summer I started my DPT program at Ohio State. I was hitting more mileage Trials, Smiles, Milesthan ever–even logging 100 miles one week. However, by the end of the summer, I had my first major injury. A sacral stress fracture. Although I had minor injuries in college, I was usually back in 2-3 weeks. This time I was going to be out for almost 3 months. I thought it was going to be just a minor bump in the road. I would take a little break and I thought I would be back in no time. Little did I know that I would be stuck in this injury cycle from sciatica, IT band syndrome, patellofemoral pain, SI joint dysfunction, peroneal tendonitis, femoral stress reaction, illiopsoas tendonitis, and an ankle sprain. One injury after another, I felt broken. Post-collegiate running has been nothing but disappointments. I couldn’t string together a training period without getting injured and leaving me back on the bike or swimming in the pool. I had become that runner. That runner who was always injured.

Being injured is incredibly frustrating. So why do I continue to strive for a comeback? Why do I wake up at 5am in the morning to go running in the dark? Why do I continue to make all kinds of sacrifices with no guarantee of success? Because for every rock bottom I hit, I know that the high will be that much more rewarding. There’s a Japanese proverb,

Fall down seven times and get up eight.

No matter how many times I get injured, I will get back up and try again.

Although this past year was filled with injuries and disappointments in running, running continues to be when I feel most free and when I truly felt like myself. Running is where I found many of my friends and made a ton of memories. There are so many reasons why I run and there are some things that can’t be described– some things that can only be experienced, but here are few of my whys: I run to connect with people, to give me energy and clear my mind after a stressful day.

I run to be challenged both physically and mentally. I run to be a part of something bigger than myself; I find myself surrounded with positive people who are striving for similar goals. Most of all, I run because of the continual life lessons I learn. I learned that comparison is the thief of joy. I will admit I still struggle with this but I learned to look at my own strength and find my true value. Of course there were times I wanted to give up, to hang up my shoes and say I’m done, but running has taught me to reach beyond what I thought was possible and challenge to better myself everyday. Running taught me so much about myself and helped me grow spiritually.

So to summarize my why, I think my Instagram post on Global Running Day explains it the best:

(June 7th, 2017): “To the sport that taught me many life lessons, brought me tears and happiness, broke me down, but also built me back up stronger. Running is more than just running. Running allowed me to meet so many people in my life I wouldn’t have met otherwise and taught me I am capable of so much more than I ever imagined.”

I will continue to chase my dream and so one day I can say it was all worth it. Setting a big goal is scary and it’s going to be challenging, but if I can’t believe in myself, who will? It might seem like a far-fetched goal- I may not be anywhere close today, or even years from now, but day by day I can tell myself I’m closer than I was yesterday.

So till then I will keep on keeping on.

I’m blessed to have the love and support from my family, especially my twin sister and best friend, Sakiko, my CRC teammates I can train, banter, and brunch with, coaches who believe in me and inspire me, and Columbus Running Company for supporting my passion for running. The best part is that they are all people I can take along with me on this incredible journey.

At the end of the day, I hope that I can inspire others to chase their dreams. I hope that someone, even one person, can say, “If she can do it, so can I.”

So I’m going to dream it, believe it, and achieve it…OTQ

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Author: Elena

Runner, positive spirit, and adventurous soul. Lover of tea, the outdoors, picnics, and handmade cards.

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