Change of Plans

When my plans changed, I knew that I would need a new one. But I also knew that I wasn’t alone.


Every athlete has had that heart-stopping moment at some point in their career. That moment when you think you’re at rock bottom, but you discover 10 more layers below rock bottom. For me, it was during the second day of my stay at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, when one word left the doctor’s mouth as a possibility.


I’m very happy to share that they never thought I had cancer, but when it was mentioned as a possibility on the long list of causes, my heart stopped. 

I’ve been through my fair share of injuries, taking away something more than just my sport, my passion, my way of life. Every injury knocked me down, each time further down than the last, but I channeled my energy into something positive, something to keep me going while I was waiting to get my passion back. But all of those injuries had one thing in common, there was a recovery process. There was a plan of action to rehab, recover, and get back to full strength.

Except when I planted, there was nothing there.

Their newest issue was something no one could figure out.

Hours prior to the litany of possible causes, I was at the height of my running career. 

I was ranked #2 in the WPIAL, 9th in the state, and just broke the home course record. That day was a perfect day for racing at California University of Pennsylvania, and I felt good. I felt fast. The gun went off and the field of 154 runners from all over the state had 250 yards to make it to a 5-foot wide path, wide enough for three runners. I was one of those three runners leading the charge. One mile into the race, I was in third place. 

I crossed the first mile in 5:06 with only 2.1 miles to go. A big downhill was coming up, so I was planning to make a big move and let my legs carry my body down the hill. I reached the bottom of the hill with a lot of momentum and speed, and I planted my right foot to make the sharp left turn. Except when I planted, there was nothing there.

An ambulance ride, 5 hours in the hospital, and a long car trip home later, I arrived home with no answers. For me personally, not having any answers is worse than receiving the worst news possible. 

I am the kind of person who loves a good plan. A training plan on a calendar, a meal plan to best fuel my body to run, a plan of how I am going to attack the next course I’m going to race on. I love it all. I love running more than anything in this world. It is way more than a sport for me, it is my passion. I dedicated my 17 years on this planet to be able to run in an oval faster than anyone else. 

If I get bored on a Saturday evening, I’ll go for an easy run just to pass the time. 

If I get stressed about something, I run. 

If I get angry about something, I run. 

But now I couldn’t, this time it was believed by the people around me that I would likely never run again. It felt like I was mourning a death or going through the worst breakup in history. 

I wish I could say that I was strong during this time, but I was a wreck. Everything reminded me of running, and when I thought about running, I would cry. I would cry until I could barely breathe. This carried into my stay at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The doctors could not figure out what was wrong with my leg, which made this worse. 

There was one night I couldn’t sleep, and I watched National Geographic’s documentary, Breaking 2. It was a documentary about Eliud Kipchoge, my favorite runner of all time, and his training to become the first runner to break the 2-hour marathon barrier. I cried so hard that a nurse actually came into my room to check on me at 3 in the morning. In the span of a week,  I had gone from being one of the fastest kids in the state to not being able to walk myself to the bathroom or stop crying. I was disgusted with myself. I was a shell of who I trained my whole life to become and I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. 

That would all change the next morning.

Upon waking up, the doctor came in the next morning with something I aforementioned loved: a plan. They said they believed it was a nerve condition that caused my nerves to do all these weird things that they weren’t supposed to. Simply put, the nerves in my leg were not on speaking terms with the rest of my body. They gave me a shot and started me on medication to repair and fix the condition. Within 30 minutes of this, I had full feeling in my leg and was able to walk around my hospital room. 

“So, when can I run again?”

I felt like I was so close to having my life back that I could almost taste it. And I was leaving with a plan. I had a test in 5 days to test my strength and control of my leg. The real planning was yet to start.

I wasn’t alone in this battle, and this gave me unparalleled motivation. 

My coach, Coach Rager, had been devising a plan this entire time. 

I will always remember that conversation between me and Coach Rager.  Not only the belief he had in me but the pronoun he used to describe every step of the plan, “We.” I wasn’t alone in this battle, and this gave me unparalleled motivation. 

Monday came, and I passed the test. I was able to run again. The school day Tuesday was the longest day of my life, waiting for that run after school with Coach Rager. There was a meet that day, and I was running right after school before the meet started. It was a 20-minute easy run on the track. I got halfway around on the first lap and I heard myself laughing. My teammates took pictures of me running with this huge smile on my face. I wasn’t aware I was smiling until I saw the pictures the following day. 

I’m currently putting the plan into action. I’m training better than I ever have before and I’m ready to chase that county title in October. Every day is an opportunity for me to get better, and I’m not going to waste a single opportunity. 

That’s the plan, and I’m sticking to it.