A personal account: Running with one shoe


Brenna Cohoon

My right spike is the only shoe from the pair that remains, scarred from being run over during the sectional meet.

It’s not every day that you find yourself trying to run a race while wearing just one shoe.

Sure, it happens from time to time, but the odds of it happening two weeks in a row? I may not be a statistician, but those chances seem pretty slim.

It all began at our sectional cross country meet. I was running alongside my teammates with the intention of not only qualifying our program for the state finals for the ninth consecutive year, but also to winning the meet for the second season in a row. Just about 400 meters into the race, someone stepped on the back of my right spike, causing my heel to slip out of my shoe.

Not wanting to waste any time, I kicked off my shoe entirely and pushed forward. I panicked, running with a sense of urgency thanks to this huge rush of adrenaline.

The cold, muddy course stung my shoeless foot as I finished the three-mile race. Winning the race was well worth the discomfort, though, as I was incredibly proud of the outcome. I came away from sectionals feeling proud of how I pushed through those conditions to help lead the team.

One week later, I’m standing on the starting line of the state championship in Peoria. My teammates, coaches and parents teased me about my spikes, telling me to make sure they’re triple knotted and ready to go. I laughed, thinking that nothing could possibly go wrong; it was the state meet, after all, and I had a good feeling about the race ahead of me.

The starting gun went off, smoke filled the air behind us and my last state cross country race began in the blink of an eye. I got off to a slower start than I had anticipated, feeling myself becoming swallowed in a massive pack of runners, but I remained calm. I had plenty of time to move up.

Approximately 500 meters into this race, I felt an oh-so-familiar feeling at the heel of my left shoe as my foot slipped out of my spike. Fear and frustration coursed through my veins. Was this really happening again?

I needed to relax. If I could deal with this the week before, I could deal with it again.

The course that featured hard, packed in dirt was also covered with sticks and stones. My foot hurt, but ultimately, my pride hurt even more. I struggled to get into my desired position in the race, and I felt like a complete disappointment to my team as I watched my two-shoed competitors ahead of me.

Tears streamed down my face almost immediately after I crossed the finish line. Coming out of the finish chute, I found my parents in the crowd of spectators and cried, “I lost my shoe again.” Looks of concern came across their faces as they tried to comfort me with warm embraces.

My teammates and coaches showed support for me in the same way. I simply couldn’t believe them, though. I chose to listen to the voice in my head telling me that my “disappointing” 14th place finish was all my fault.

“I should have done so much better,” I wept. My goal was to finish in the top five, and in my mind, I was way too far from that.

By the end of the weekend, I was finally able to process the positive outcomes from the race.

What I refused to initially take into account was the fact that I ran almost an entire race wearing just one spike — again. I still ran my fastest three-mile time of the season and finished with All-State honors. The most important part is that I gave the race absolutely everything I could.

Sometimes, it takes a few character-testing moments like these to realize the most important messages in not just running, but life. Quite simply, things will not always go your way, but it is absolutely necessary to remain resilient. Running is, after all, one of the greatest metaphors for life.