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Introduction: The Runner I Am Today

Hello, my name is Mikenna Vanderheyden and I am a mid-distance runner currently attending West Virginia University.

I created this page as a way to share my running experiences with others and to give insight as to what the life of a NCAA student athlete actually entails.

To open up and begin this blog I have decided to share with you all why I run and what helped me to become the runner I am today.

How I Got to Where I am Today

Okay, lets rewind to grade 10… I was a soccer player; I’m not talking like I did it as a hobby… no no no soccer was my LIFE. I was set on a goal of going NCAA for this sport and was doing everything in my power to make this happen. At this time running for me was something I didn’t really take seriously, it was more of a social outing for me, somewhere to meet others who enjoyed similar things as I did. And lets be honest, who didn’t love to miss class to go to meets!

I didn’t actually think about pursuing track and field seriously until a soccer teammate of mine- Victoria Kyriakopoulos mentioned one day that she thought I could maybe take this whole running thing to another level. I thought about it that spring and after my soccer team folded I decided that maybe it was time to move on and try something new. So with a huge risk, I switched gears and put all my focus into running.

I’ll save the rest of that story for another time… but long story short things really played into my favour and here I am today, a NCAA runner in the Big 12 Conference. (That’s something I never thought I’d say)

Why I Run

I’ve always had a passion for running but it goes much deeper than just something I was good at.

Many people don’t know this but high school was a tough time for me. I struggled to make good friends (not just friendly people) and found myself alone most of the time. I didn’t really go to social events and was really caught up in sports which took much of my free time. To be honest, I was the kid who ate my lunch in a teachers class near the end of high school just so I wasn’t alone eating alone.

At school people weren’t really the nicest . I just wanted to fit in… or at least blend in with others and be apart of conversations or be included in plans. But quite often I found myself left out unless someone wanted something from me.

Running for me was the escape to reality. I could be myself when I ran and just let all my emotions go… I was able to forget about what was going on that day or how I felt and be with myself. It helped me to forget about things people said about me, or let go of stress.

I can really thank running for being the reason I survived high school and to this day all those reasons stand to be true still.

Running began as a passion and is something that I have since turned into a serious endeavour.

I wake up every morning and cannot wait to go for my run, I love the feeling of the ground beneath my feet and being able to push my body to its limits.

While I have found people in West Virginia who I can call good friends and who I can lean on when I need support; running is still something I love… not because I am good at it, but because of the energy and life that it brings me.


Published by mileswithmik

Hi everyone! I'm an NCAA runner just sharing my experiences of being a student athlete :)

Join the Conversation


    1. That was such a beautiful piece of writing mikenna—-everytime I think about it ,it brings tears to my eyes—-you are such an amazing and strong young lady—-you will go far in life—-so proud of you mikenna— love you nanny

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Mikenna, you are an inspiration to all. You are absolutely beautiful, smart, kind, generous, loving and the most determined child I know. I am so proud of you. I love you more then you will ever know. Thank you for sharing your story ❤️❤️❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow that was a really powerful story, I’m sure other kids thought because you are do beautiful and athletic that you had it made. Your story will open their eyes and make them realize that no one really knows what another person is going through until they hear it from that person. I know your family is very proud of you. Keep up the great work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are truly a strong beautiful young women inside and out Mikenna! Keep making your dream a reality….you deserve it!


  3. Great job Mikenna! I am a friend of your mom and dad’s. You have a great story. I am going to share it with my son who aspires to play NCAA baseball (going into grade 9). I try to tell him to keep his options open..perhaps your voice will resonate with him. Keep up the great work and shoot for the stars ✨

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such an amazing and inspirational piece to read 💖 You are beautiful, talented , motivated and brilliant . Thank you for sharing your incredible journey . Excited to follow your journey xo

    Liked by 1 person

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