The theme of our film—the transformative power of athletics—came to me honestly. I am a believer. I come from an athletic family; the Finucanes took to basketball like the Kennedys took to football. My Dad and I have played pick-up games in the driveway for as long as I can remember. It’s the game we play on holidays, at picnics and parties. In fact, our games are legendary for their competitiveness and for the fact that no one seems to let a little thing like a graduation party get in the way of bloody noses, broken fingers, and Dennis Rodman-like saves off the court that result in tumbles down the treacherous hill in our backyard. Despite my love of the game, the gospel of track and field found me at age 10; suddenly I had a new purpose for my long arms and awkwardly long strides. I realized I could circle a track faster and throw a shot-put further than most of the boys in my class, and just like that: I became a believer.
It wasn’t long before track and field became the most important thing in my life and would occupy that space for most of the next decade. I saw the world through the lens of an optimistic athlete: no obstacles were insurmountable, no goals unattainable. Evenings and weekends were spent at the track; outside of my parents, who graciously drove me to track meets across the eastern seaboard, my coaches were the most influential people in my life. They pushed me to do more, to fight, and to believe. Training was as much mental as it was physical; resilience became my greatest weapon. Hard work and dedication yielded positive results. From middle school and through my career as a college athlete, some of my happiest moments were spent on the track.
However, like most love affairs, there were challenges. My all-or-nothing attitude occasionally produced agonizing, inconsolable defeats. My dogged approach to training led to injuries, of which there were many: gravel ground into knees after an unforgiving hurdle workout; a torn biceps-anchor from too many throws of the javelin and shot-put. When I had to red shirt a season my junior year after shoulder surgery, it felt like a prison sentence. I was devastated. And yet, once again, the resilience and dedication instilled in me paid off; my senior year season finished with a storybook ending at our final championship meet.
Now, as a retired track and field athlete-turned-marathon runner, things are different, not only because I don’t win anymore (I never have been much of a distance athlete), but because there are other priorities in my life. I don’t practice for 3+ hours a day; I don’t compete once a week. But I am able to appreciate the gifts and the lessons that the sport provided me over the years: the journey has been just as important as the destination, the practice just as a meaningful as the meet. To this day, nothing brings me more peace of mind than a run.
In my most stubborn, unrelenting moments, my boyfriend tells me my approach to life is the same as it was as a competitive athlete. It’s true; my approach is dogged, a bit scrappy. Though the obstacles and goals have changed, I still see them as surmountable and attainable. I’m inclined to think that for the most part, that’s not such a bad thing.