(Photo: Courtesy Genevieve Clemons)
The Daily Rally

Genevieve Clemons Won’t Let Anxiety Run the Show

When she started her freshman year during the height of the pandemic, the college student felt trapped. Then she started running.

Courtesy Genevieve Clemons

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Genevieve Clemons told her story to producer Ann Marie Awad for an episode of The Daily Rally podcast. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I was in a dormitory with one other roommate, but because classes were online, we spent most of our time in this tiny room, taking online classes. And so I just felt really cooped up, irritated, unmotivated. I wanted to find my community, and I just hadn’t.

I go by tons of nicknames, kind of dealer’s choice, but just generally Genevieve.

I am currently going to be a senior at the University of Texas at Austin. I would say two of my biggest passions would have to be nature and wildlife. And, recently, a big passion of mine has become running, just anywhere, as far as I can go. I love running.

When the pandemic hit, it was the end of my senior year of high school, and I was honestly quite miserable even before the pandemic started. I was dealing with some anxiety and perfectionism. I didn’t really feel like I fit in in my high school.

I didn’t have the best experience with high school sports. I was on the tennis team, but I had a coach that treated me not the best. And so I just kind of had a complicated relationship with sports, and I was also having a hard time balancing academics with everything else. I just took things really seriously. I graduated as Valedictorian, but I wasn’t happy.

I wanted to change a lot of things about my life, my outlook and the way I was living it. I saw college as an opportunity for that.

Coming out of high school, I didn’t really have a lot of connections and friendships, and I was really depending on having that normal freshman-year college experience to help me bounce back. So when the pandemic hit, I got pretty depressed.

Having to be cooped up inside all day started out kind of exciting, like, Whoa, what’s happening? Finishing out high school, we get to do school online, it’s easy, and then it just kind of dragged out. I started out my freshman year at UT in the middle of the raging pandemic, and it was fully online, so that was pretty difficult.

At that point where I was really seeking balance, I was like, Maybe I just take everybody else out of the equation, and I just fully look for something and do it because I love it and I want to do it. Maybe that’s the answer.

I knew my dad was a marathon runner, in his younger days. And I was like, Why don’t I try running? And honestly, I hated it in tennis, when we had to do running. Hated it. But I was like, you know what? I’m gonna try it, but I’m gonna do it my way. So I just literally put on some shoes and started running. I didn’t want anyone to know I was running. I didn’t want to know how fast I was going. I just wanted to get out there.

For several, several months, I would just go out on this trail by my house. Sometimes it was just a mile, and that mile was freaking hard, and I would feel accomplished because I was really just shutting everything else out. And it was, How did I feel today? Slowly I had little victories and little moments like, Oh, I actually kind of felt not out of breath today, or, I ran a little faster or went a little further. I was hooked.

I started to run further and further. And I just loved it. I loved the feeling of pushing myself in that way, in the endurance way. I was attracted to distance running. So, one day, I was like, I want to run a marathon. And I shocked myself when I said that, but I was like, my dad did it, I want to do it. I want to see what it’s like.

In my head, when I say something out loud that I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it. I was so intimidated. I was like, The last thing I want to do is run with all these people. They’re gonna see how slow I am, they’re gonna see I’m not a real runner. But I was like, You know what? This has all been good so far. Just try it. And that was my new goal after getting out of high school and letting anxiety run the show. I was like, I’m not doing that anymore. Let’s just go.

But I knew that’s the kind of stuff you can’t do alone. Sure, there’s the internet, but I wanted to talk to some people that had done it. So I went to these running groups, and I found a community that I was so embraced by. In sports as a kid, I was always on the sidelines breathing really hard, and the coach was like, “Come on.” I wasn’t used to these people just believing in me and seeing my potential, and wanting to share the gift of this sport.

I did my first trail race, and I was so scared. But my family came and I was like, You know what, I’m not gonna worry about it. I got out there, and I have never ran, or competed, or done something where I felt so joyful. We were all out there to have fun. I would pass people on the trail in the race, and they would say, “Hey, great job.” It was just so encouraging.

So, I just catapulted off from there. I’ve run probably about nine races, maybe ten so far.

Seeing other people believing in me, I realized I could also believe in myself. I think whatever that looks like, having some kind of faith in yourself, listening to whatever that is inside you that guides you to do things—that light, that spark in you—instead of walking in fear and doubt. Everybody has those thoughts, I sure do still. If I’m about to sign up for a race, I think, Are you sure you can do that? Or, Is this really for you? Or, as I’m sure everyone thinks, Can someone like me really do this? To recognize and say, Hey, I’m hearing these voices of doubt, but right now, I’m gonna choose to listen to something else.

Genevieve Clemons is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in biochemistry. Earlier this year, she competed in her first 100K race. She was nominated for the show by her very proud dad.

You can follow The Daily Rally on SpotifyApple PodcastsStitcher, or wherever you like to listen. Subscribe to our newsletter and nominate someone to be featured on the show.

Lead Photo: Courtesy Genevieve Clemons

Trending on Outside Online