A farewell to collegiate running
And just like that my collegiate running career has come to an end! June 9, 2018 will forever go down in history as not only the date of the last ever steeplechase to be run at the Historic Hayward Field but also the last NCAA sanctioned race that I ever competed in. The last 4 years have been rife with growth, challenges, and adversity; full of happiness, joy, disappointment and anxiety; and probably some of the most valuable and vulnerable years I will ever encounter in my lifetime. In my book this is definitely deserving of a good ol’ fashioned proper farewell, so here goes…
Dear college running,
When we met 4 years ago, you were new and exciting, and represented a fresh start for me, you were the cool kid. After playing soccer for over a decade I needed something new in my life and I wanted to be pushed outside of my comfort zone. Unlike many of my competitors I did not grow up wanting to be a collegiate runner, in fact the thought of running a race sounded absolutely terrible, literally one of the worst things I could think of. I remember being in high school and seeing the cross country team meet for practice at the same time that I was at soccer practice and I always used to think “those poor cross country runners, I feel so bad for them, they chose THE WORST sport possible!”. While this first impression of you was not completely wrong (running is still hard and hurts a lot!) I have learned that under the surface of all that pain you have a lot more to offer.
After my first couple of cross country practices, and being one of the slowest on the team, I remember thinking “WTF have I gotten myself into???”. The funny thing is that these thoughts have still not completely gone away (and I don’t think they ever will) but after 4 intense years with you I think I have a better answer now. For me college running was about intentional growth. I did not have to be on a track or cross-country team at a Division 1 school, I was not on an athletic scholarship, I was not even good, I could have been a hobby jogger for all anyone cared. But after that first “long run” where our coach told us to go run for 80 minutes and I was unable to even make it to an hour, I was hooked. Why’d you have to play me like that?!
While our relationship was for the most part smooth sailing, you definitely came with some major baggage. The initial honeymoon phase started to wear off when I noticed some of your less pretty sides. Like the way in which my competitors would ruin their bodies just to be fast and liked by you, the way some coaches intentionally overlooked serious health problems for the sake of winning races, the way in which some people got so entranced by you that they ended up losing themselves. But I was lucky, I had many friends, family, and teammates who helped me navigate these issues and I have come out on the other side, not totally unscathed, but victorious nonetheless.
Our first 2 years together were relatively carefree and fun, but nothing to be talked about in the record books. I still spent summers half-heartedly training; if I could do 80% of the summer training that I was assigned I considered it a personal success. But then something funny happened, I started to get good, better than I ever expected to be, and we became something I never thought we would… serious. I decided to transfer schools with the intention of seeing just how serious we could make this thing. Just how fast could I be? I started paying more attention to my training actually holding myself accountable for weekly miles, summer workouts, recovery, and eating enough to fuel; everything became much more deliberate. Some might have thought we were taking things too fast, but I knew there were greater things ahead and we had only a small window of time to achieve them.
I remember telling a good friend after my second ever track season that I would sell my soul to be an All-American. It was one of THE coolest things I could think of to have on my resume and something that I obviously thought was way out of my reach. I now have 5 All-American titles attached to my name. After being somewhat disappointed in my last race to get 6th place and earn my 5th All-American honor, I remembered that at one point in my life I offered to sell my soul for what I had just earned. And that right there folks, is called P-E-R-S-P-E-C-T-I-V-E. At one point in my life not so long ago, I didn’t even know what an All-American was I was just trying to not get dead last in my races. At one point in my life (4 years ago), I was super stoked for running my first ever sub 6 min mile (en route to my first ever XC race finish). At one point in my life 3.5 years ago, I was jumping for joy over having broken 11:00 in the steeplechase.
It is these small victories, that make running worth it. Years later you may be unhappy with a race, it may not be quite all that you expected it to be, you may not finish your college or high school career in the fashion that you always imagined. But if you take a step back, and add up all the small victories, learning moments, and joys you will see that this is the gift of running. This is what makes all those hard practices worth it, all those gusty grindy races, all that cross training, all those times you went to bed instead of going out to party like normal college kids do. All those sacrifices.
Running my dear, you have forced me to be focused to a have mindfulness and presence that I did not have before. You have forced me to be positive in order to avoid an ever-impending self-destruction. For all of these valuable lessons I thank you. And to anyone else looking to run in college, or in high school, or at any point in life I urge you to keep collecting all those tiny penny-moments. Keep them safe, and one day you will look back and see that it is those moments added together that have made you rich.
Now while I may be saying goodbye to college running, running and I are still going strong and looking forward to many more tiny moments to collect on an even bigger stage. ?
Can’t wait for what’s next!
P.S. Shoutout to all my amazing teammates and competitors that have become good friends over the years, ya’ll rock my world and I think you’re all amazing keep grinding!