Finishing up a victory lap

Kerry Lester

Its’ crunch time. This Saturday, after nearly four months of training, enduring shin splints, bruises and various other “battle wounds,” I’ll attempt to run the Marine Corps Marathon. However, this event means far more to me than a simple 26-mile race. It serves as a victory lap – of friendship.

I’ve run for nearly half my life, not necessarily at great speeds or for incredible distances. Much as I try to immerse myself in the sport, I will never be as sleek as those spandex-clad individuals seen walking onto the Pavilion track every afternoon. My gear, admittedly, mostly consists of nubby t-shirts and sneakers found on sale in the Kohl’s shoe department. Though it’s never earned me a scholarship, a trophy, or first place ribbon, my running has served a unique purpose – instilling a sense of independence, determination and a small bit of pride that a simple action has become a way of life.

Freshman year at Villanova, the very first friend I made was a running buddy who lived down my Stanford Hall. Every afternoon, I’d wait for a knock on my door. My friend and I would stretch, set our watches and venture out onto the Main Line, slowly expanding our knowledge of the area’s roads. Coming from flat Chicago, the hills hit me hard. But with a partner whose footsteps were a little surer of the terrain than my own, I was carried along.

We’ve been honked and whistled at by passing cars, been chased off private properties, and have survived near-attacks by threatening cocker spaniels. Perhaps our craziest hours were during our sophomore year, when, to the incredulous looks of hall-mates, we took midnight runs and plodded through several feet of snow after school’s cancellation.

Over the course of four years, the two of us have grown in different directions. We don’t always have the same friends, habits, choices in boyfriends, or ideas of a good time. But today, my friend and I are still running. It is the one commonality that ties us together, no matter where we’re headed in life.

This weekend will undoubtedly be a test of strength, endurance, and will.

However, I know it wouldn’t mean the same without my buddy at my side. She’s been next to me for four years at college, and will be, I’m sure, for many, many more.