It’s 7AM on a Saturday, and I’m pacing to keep warm rather than snuggling in my bed. I’m on the side of the road filling up tiny cups of water and filling bowls with candy, talking spiritedly with my teammates and checking my watch to see when the first runner will come by.
We’re at the Bachman Valley Half Marathon, an event that my cross country team helps with annually. We divide into small groups and help at different water stations along the course, giving out water, food, and encouragement. This year is especially exciting for us because we get to watch one of our current teammates, Laura, and an alumnus of the team, Roxy, complete the race together.
When they run by, my water station roars with excitement. Roxy and Laura are wearing singlets from the McDaniel team and looking really great after running seven miles already. Other competitors get me equally excited: the father whose energy is instantly revived when he sees his three small children cheering for him with posters, the man who is running in a pink bandana and a tutu, the older woman who chugs along after years of races just like this one. I even get to see one of our McDaniel librarians pass my water station, and I cheer for her especially loud because I know that she ran 40 miles just the day before.
The camaraderie is palpable this morning. It is this feeling, the atmosphere of distance racing, which draws me back to running each year. I feel incredibly close to my teammates and to those completing the race because we all know the pain of only being halfway done with a race or workout as well as the pride of seeing the finish line.
Running in college is not always easy to balance. But this past Saturday morning, I was reminded by my fellow runners why I choose to spend my afternoons on the track and my weekends at races. It is because of college running that I have gained some of my closest friends, gotten through my lowest points, and made most of my favorite memories.