Running Cross Country Changed My Life Forever

Jordan Mendiola

Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash

As a Sophomore in community college, I knew that I wanted to be part of either the baseball and cross country team.

Unfortunately, the baseball team never got back to my email about joining, so I explored my other option. The cross country team responded to my email immediately and gave me a date to come try out.

I was incredibly nervous since I had never done cross country before. Thankfully, I had a background in football, baseball, and some indoor track.

My coaches were former Navy service members, and since I was in the Army, they had the idea that I was a disciplined individual. From the get-go, I was welcomed into a family that I’d never met before.

Running is a mental sport and we’re all insane. No half times. No timeouts. No breaks.

Taking A Leap Of Faith Is Scary, But Go For It.

For my tryout, I was set to run a 5k race, which is 3.2 miles. I ran it in 21 minutes, which wasn’t amazing, but I showed enough skill to be a coachable runner.

My team was small, but every person on it was unique and had their own way of contributing to the team. Whether it was the funny guy or the uplifting motivational one, we all balanced each other out and made a really great team.

Being a student-athlete once again kept me motivated to keep up with my studies and improve my running skills every week.

Competing in a new sport was a ton of fun because of the learning curve. No longer was I an expert in my sport. Which I was okay with.

Practices were something that I actually was motivated for because my coaches and teammates taught me so much about running.

Some Of The Most Useful Advice I Was Given:

  1. “Since you’re a bigger guy, you need to be sure that you conserve as much energy as possible by minimizing how much movement your body has throughout the races.”
  2. “Move your arms as though you’re marching with the Army. Slight movements without any exaggeration.”
  3. “When running, use a tall posture which will allow you a greater lung capacity.”
  4. “Run behind other individuals and use them as meat shields to deflect the wind.”
  5. “Run your race and push it at the end.”
  6. “Don’t try to keep up with everyone in the beginning.”
  7. “The food you put in your body will either hurt you or help you come race day.”

Not only was cross country a competitive sport that I thrived in, but it was also a sport that changed my life forever.

After running consistently and being a teammate throughout our journey, I learned how much better I performed in school with exercise and pushing my body’s limits.

A coach is someone that makes you do what you’ve always wanted to do so you can be what you’ve always wanted to be.

As Long As You Start, You Will Eventually Improve

I ran my first race (8k or 4.97 miles) in 34 minutes, and then by the end of the season, I had cut off 5 minutes. This means that I ran a sub-6 minute mile each mile of the race. I was honestly amazed.

I began as the number six runner on my team and finished the last race as the number four runner. I consistently showed up, improved, and was vulnerable enough to learn from others.

My assistant coach was a professional photographer, and he took so many great pictures of our crew that I am incredibly thankful to have. There were so many great memories I had the honor of being a part of, especially our conference race.

Runners in the past who ran in high school still run today and are in phenomenal shape. I am happy to be a part of such a fantastic community of runners on Facebook and throughout life.

To this day, I have competed in four half marathons, and I plan on running a marathon when the pandemic allows me to in the fall.

Every other day I will run anywhere from 2 miles to 10 miles. No questions asked. My discipline to maintain my figure since cross country gives me all the motivation I need.

Anything is possible if you pull the right people together and strive for a common goal.

I’ll never forget all of the travel across the midwest for competitions. I’ll forever remember our coaches buying us Panera bagels for breakfast as well as fancy dinners on race day.

“When I’m in the back of the pack, I remind myself. It’s not done until it’s done. And it’s not won until it’s won.”

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Creative entrepreneur, U.S. Army Engineer, and dedicated runner. Committed to sharing ideas that lead to more fulfillment in all areas of life. Email:

Chicago, IL

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