I started running at age 9 because of my dad. Dad didn't start running until his 40's and did so to get in shape and lose weight. He was a member of the local running club, Tidewater Striders, which happened to have a youth running program called New Energy. Pretty much it was all the kids of running parents in the Tidewater Striders and we would meet several times a week for practice at Mt. Trashmore park in Virginia Beach. Sometime in the spring of 2006, I joined the team and started competing in local 1 mile runs. Later that year, I competed in the AAU cross country nationals in Cleveland, Ohio.
The next couple of years involved competing in a mixture of local road races (mainly 1 mile runs) and regional USAT / AAU cross country and track meets. I have plenty of great memories of road trips with the team up and down the east coast competing in these events. When I first started with track, I was a 100m/200m/400m runner. I particularly remember track nationals in Charlotte, NC, where the day's events were so delayed that I ran my heat of the 400m in the middle of the night. The next day, I skipped out on my second event because I wanted to go to the theme park, Carowinds, instead.
When I was 10 years old I decided I wanted to celebrate by running 10 miles, so I participated in a local 10 mile race with my friend Marissa (FOP 10 Mile Run - November 8, 1997 finished in 1:30:19). I still can recall the incredible sense of accomplishment I felt after that race!! At some point that year, I also competed in a local kids "triathlon" in which the events were definitely not in order! I believe we ran first, then biked, then finished in the pool. As you can see below, my swimming skills were super advanced at such a young age ;)
In middle school I continued to compete in local road races including 5ks, 8k's and the occasional 10k. I joined the middle school track team and jumped up to the 800m and 1 mile events. I was the captain of the team in 7th and 8th grade. I don't remember a lot from these years, but I know it involved a lot of chasing around dad trying to keep up with his speedy self and that I worked super hard to break 6 minutes in the mile but only was able to get down to 6:02.
In the spring of 2001 (8th grade) I traveled to the state track meet to watch my sister about a week after Alan Webb ran his record breaking 3:53.43 mile to shatter Jim Ryun's 36-yr old record. Of course, I made sure to meet him and catch a picture :) Later that summer Alan was a counselor at the running camp I attended (Camp Varsity!) and we had a lot of fun poking fun at his national popularity (he's a really cool, down to earth guy!) Camp Varsity is the running camp that I attended for 6 years (middle through high school) and then served as a counselor for 2 years after that. Oh how I miss those days of running camp!!!
High School: 2001-2005
I entered high school in 2001 and my sister and I were part of the inaugural cross country team (it was the first year our school opened). In my scrapbook I found a piece of torn out looseleaf paper in which I wrote down my high school running goals (long term goals were noted as: qualify for state xc meet, qualify for state track meet and break 20 minutes in the 5k...) Anyways, on August 16, 2001, just prior to starting high school I wrote:
"Today was my third cross country practice and it has been my best yet. Today's run was a little longer, about 36 minutes. I felt great during the whole thing and positive that I will continue to improve. As for my team... we are all great! Everyone has good spirits and are very encouraging. Today as I was walking through the mall, I ran into Sucessories. This is a store with merchandise to motivate you to succeed. This made me decide to find motivation and the will to succeed in achieving my goals through quotes and dreams. And as of today, I am certain I will succeed! ..."
"...P.s. I just read in my Bill Roger's book that running should leave you feeling energetic. Well, I just got home from practice a few hours ago and I feel GREAT!" <---- Geee, that doesn't sound like me AT ALL :P
2002: In my sophomore year I got slightly more stylish with my oakley sunglasses and ribbons in my hair. My sister was the captain of the team my freshman and sophomore year and I became captain after that. It was definitely fun sharing those memories with my sister, though I remember plenty of runs with us fighting along the way (usually me hip checking her and her throwing snot rockets my direction).
I was unable to find any pictures from my junior year of high school, but my high school running career ended something like this: The summer before my senior year I trained my butt off and was in the best shape of my life. I set a 1/2 marathon PR running the Rock n' Roll Virginia Beach Half with my dad (1:45:44) and a new 5k PR (20:31) at the Chips 5k all a few weeks prior to starting my senior season of cross country. That season went well and I was positioned to place in the top 15 at districts and advance to regionals, except I got sick the week of the meet, raced poorly and failed to qualify. Pretty much, I was frustrated, discouraged, burnt out, struggling with disordered eating and fell into a depression that caused me lose my joy of running and give it up. With the loss of running, I felt like I lost my identity... it was NOT a fun time for me. Instead of doing indoor/outdoor track my senior year, with the encouragement of another mentor, I trained for and won a body building competition in April of 2005 (if you ask me about it I will blush and change the subject... and sorry no pics!!) I graduated high school having accepted early admission at Virginia Tech into the engineering program, and not running at the time and with no future running plans in mind. However, my physical therapist and another major mentor of mine through high school was a triathlete and encouraged me to check out the sport when I got to college...
Stay tuned for Part 2 !
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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