On “Starting Late”


If you’d have asked me a year and a half ago if I liked running, I probably would’ve laughed in your face. I would’ve regaled you with tales from my freshman year of high school, when lumbered through thirteen minute miles and complained for hours afterwards (that is, if all my efforts to get out of running didn’t work out). I would’ve said it to your face: I despised running.

Ever since I was little, I’ve always thought you had to start young to be successful. The dancers in my classes had been dancers since they were two, the talented musicians had taken music lessons since childhood, the kids who were in honors classes had been advanced since kindergarten. I used to dream of the day that I too would join the ranks of prodigies. Someone who had done something, not just sat in a classroom.

That belief didn’t go away for a long time. Now, the dancers, and musicians, and geniuses from my grade school classes have been replaced with Forbes ‘Thirty Under Thirty’ Lists and episodes of Little Big Shots. Culture supports that idea too, constantly saying: start young or you’ll never make it. I’m nineteen, and sometimes, it already feels like I’ve lost my chance. 

But is that really true? Think about this: what more merit does a half marathon have if you run it at sixteen or sixty? It’s the same amount of miles after all, and age doesn’t specifically denote speed. It’s not just with running either. A man who makes his first million at nineteen and a man who does the same at ninety both have a million dollars. 

I’m not saying don’t have goals. In fact, I’m saying quite the opposite. Make goals. Try new things. That’s awesome. But age shouldn’t be a factor in what’s available or not.

Misty Copeland once said, “You can start late, look different, be uncertain and still succeed.” Because it’s not age that tells you how successful you’ll be — it’s your grit. 

So let me tell you a little bit more about running.

When I started attending college in the fall of 2017, I decided to start taking advantage of the opportunities around me. Going to the games, listening to the amazing guest speakers, and, of course, attending any and every event possible. One of those was a 5k around campus.

Once I started training of this thing, I was hooked. I started running on the treadmill at the gym (an activity I previously avoided like the plague, I went on runs around my neighborhood, I even bought a pair of real running shoes to see if they would help my speed. 

Today, I run around seventy-five to a hundred miles a month. I’m training for a half-marathon, and I hope to complete my first full marathon before I graduate college. When I hit the pavement, I feel like I’m flying. It’s the one time of the day that I feel the most like myself.

For many people, taking up running when they’re nineteen seems weird, especially in my case considering I had never run a full mile before in my life. I had no natural inclination for running. I still get winded climbing up the stairs. 

But I try my hardest, and I give running my full effort. I know some people would consider me late to the game. I didn’t run cross country in high school, and I certainly don’t set any records, but I still started. And to me, that success is more important than anything else. 

Yumna Samie : Storyteller by nature and student by trade. Runner. Reader. Enthusiast of messy buns and pajamas. Is usually found listening to a podcast and/or burning herself while attempting to bake.