This is Paige, and this is her story: "Ever since I can remember, I absolutely loved running. I decided to start running competitively in 8th grade. By the time freshman year rolled around, I was doing really well. After recognizing my potential, I realized I wanted to take running more seriously, and my mentality began to shift away from "running just because I like it." After my cross country season my junior year, I decided to completely change my diet. I cut out gluten, dairy, and refined sugars. It was one of the toughest AND the most eye opening challenges I've ever took on - which is saying something because I was running 60 miles a week, and that's pretty freakin tough. I was on this diet for almost a year, and I saw major changes, physically and mentally. But, little did I know, I was creating bad habits and a mindset that took away from my joy of running. Senior year rolled around, and I wasn't having the season I wanted. I had stopped eating as strictly and didn't have the best times. I convinced myself that I had bad races, because I wasn't sticking to my diet. I started to put a lot of negative pressure on myself to eat 'healthy' and be the best, and I started to hate running. I didn't want to go to practice, and I didn't want to see my teammates. I wasn't myself. I was weighing myself every morning, and my happiness depended on how much weight I lost. Thank God it only took me two weeks to realize what kind of negative path I was on. I took a long hard look at myself and realized that no number on the scale or no time on the clock is representative of who I am. I realized I needed to find the JOY in running again; how to love it again. WHY I was out there. It took some time, but by the end of the season, I finished my last race with a genuine smile on my face. Throughout this whole journey, I learned that it's okay to be yourself and to be happy with that. I learned that I race the best when I'm staying true to myself and running for the right reasons. I learned that even the toughest people have their demons, but it's not their struggles that define them... it's what they do about it." #featurefriday

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