Updated: Aug 11
Aleigha Garrison is in it for the long run. She’s going the distance for God.
On April 28, Judah Christian School’s top cross country and track distance runner set the school record in the 1,600-meter run. She ran the 1-mile race in 5 minutes and 31 seconds, shaving five seconds off the school record and a full thirteen seconds off her personal best.
Over the past two years, few at Judah have run the distance like Aleigha. The junior runner has won many awards for herself and the school. In cross country, her event is the 3-mile run, a grueling feat for both the mind and body. In her cross country runs this school year, Aleigha came in fifth place overall in her regional race, twelfth place overall in her sectional race, and sixtieth place overall, out of 258 girls, in her state run. Her personal best is a time of 18 minutes and 34 seconds. With these runs, Aleigha landed in the News-Gazette with a spot on the 2022 all-area girls’ cross country second team.
But what makes Aleigha Garrison a star runner? What keeps her ahead of her opponents?
One could say it’s her training. Aleigha’s love for the sport started when she was nine years old and joined the club Girls on the Run. She said, “We would go on runs for fun. Even the motto is ‘Girls on the Run is so much fun!’ We ran together anywhere, and then every week or so, we would have 5ks.” That’s a third grader, running more than 3 miles.
Since then, Aleigha keeps her body in running condition by doing solo runs and training with her coach. She does admit that she has a special workout playlist to keep herself focused during her runs, as well as make them more enjoyable. Aleigha recognizes the importance of maintaining her physical fitness and taking care of her body. A big obstacle that many athletes face is dehydration. Aleigha gave a note on how she avoids this, saying, “I need to make sure I drink a lot of water for my health overall, but especially before a meet, so I don’t get dehydrated.”
Another could say it’s her mindset. Though many non-runners fail to realize it, cross country could arguably be one of the hardest sports, because it requires so much mental strength. Aleigha said, “I think what I’ve learned these past years is that it’s ninety percent mental. You have to really put a lot of your mind into it. A lot of the time, people don’t run because they don’t want to, but you have to learn to push through that and just do it. You have to have the right attitude.”
Not staying focused on the end goal can cause many runners to lose their pace. A lack of mental motivation can easily spiral into a lack of training and preparedness for the next race. Aleigha manages all these by keeping her attitude and outlook locked in on her goal. She said, “I try to stay in a positive mindset, although it’s hard. I can get really negative about myself, but I try to encourage myself and remind myself that I can get through it. It’s hard to run on your own, especially practicing. But I’m used to it, so I tell myself, it’s ok, we’ve done this before.”
Aleigha has her own thoughts on her success. She believes it comes from her source. “I think for me,” Aleigha said, “it’s who I run for. I run for God. A lot of times when people run, it’s to get their times, to get their places, or to do what they want to make themselves feel good. Before a race, I always have my mindset that I’m not running for myself or my glory, but for God’s glory. He’s the one who gave me this gift, and so He should be the one getting all the praise.”
While she has many role models, like her older brother Hayden, her younger brother Samuel, and her close friend Elise Coulter, Aleigha looks up to God and praises Him for the gift He has given her. Very telling to her character, she said, “For me, the best part about running is being thankful for the ability to run. I couldn’t do it without the gifts that God gave me, the talent that I have. I always thank Him for that.” Aleigha also greatly enjoys the experience of running outside in nature and the support she receives from the running community in other schools.
Of the many factors that go into becoming a top runner, Aleigha overcomes and masters them all. Her humility and personal discipline, along with her physical abilities, are sure to keep her in the lead. With her top-notch times and talent, expect to see her in the papers for a while.
— Hannah Jackson, class of '24