I am seven years older than my sister, which is kind of a big gap, especially when we were younger. Growing up, we always got along well, but we had a pretty typical big kid/little kid dynamic. When I was in high school, she would come to all of my field hockey games to cheer me on. After I moved away for college, I would hear all about how she was following in my field hockey footsteps over the phone. As we got older and the age gap seemed less significant, we became closer, and I started thinking of her as my friend in addition to my little sister.
But the one thing that really brought us the closest was running.
My sister got into running before I did. First it was shorter races and half marathons, and I would listen to her recount her mileage for the week, wondering why anyone would ever be interested in that. In field hockey, running off the hockey field was a punishment, so it was unfathomable to me why she or anyone else would voluntarily run for hours at a time.
I half-ignored this new development until my sister started training for her first marathon, encouraged by my dad who had run several. I happened to be home the weekend she ran her first twenty-mile training run, and it was pouring down rain. She walked into my parents’ house, soaked and exhausted, while I was sitting on the dry, warm couch watching TV. Even though I told her she was crazy, I secretly thought to myself: what a bad ass. I wonder if I could ever do that myself.
A few weeks later, my sister was running the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., and I went out to spectate. Every time I saw her along the course, she looked so happy and so strong. When she crossed the finish line, I thought to myself: what a badass. I have to do that next year.
The next day, I went out for my first run in a very long time, and a year later I was on the Marine Corps starting line … with my sister.
Since then, my sister and I have continued to bond over running. Whether it’s plotting which race to run next, talking about our latest training plan, or competing over who has lost the most toenails lately, we talk about running pretty much every day. She helps me when I’m too hard on myself, and I help her to push herself to the next level. Together, we’ve been through all of the highs and lows that running brings: the anticipation of a big goal race, the thrill of finishing a marathon, the exhilarating PRs; but also the injuries, illnesses, burnout, and fatigue.
My sister was there last year when I ran my huge PR in Chicago, and I was there for her big comeback marathon after a stress fracture this fall. Through it all, we’ve been each other’s biggest cheerleader, rejoiced in each other’s successes, and supported each other when things didn’t go as planned. Running has become such a huge part of my life, and it has made me a happier, healthier person. But getting even closer to my sister has been the best part, hands down. I’m so grateful that I decided to follow in her footsteps for a change!
Has running helped you bond with a family member?