Today was our cross country Regionals race at Dickinson’s cross country course in Pennsylvania. The course is notorious for its difficulty in the wooded sections during the middle section, but we had ran it before this season and have done a ton of hill workouts since we started training in August.
For two of our team members, it was their very last cross country race ever. Joy and Kristen are both seniors who have been with our team since freshman year. Joy has aspirations to run marathons when this school year ends! Luckily, we have two more seasons of track to run together before we graduate, so it didn’t feel particularly sad.
Today was also special because I got to run against two of my high school teammates, one who is a sophomore and another who is a freshman. We were all captains of the team during our senior year and still maintain contact. Hannah, who is in her first year of college at Johns Hopkins, won the whole race today! It’s awesome to see her succeed because I remember her very first day of cross country practice when she first joined our high school team.
Though I felt a little apprehensive about racing today because I wasn’t sure if I was mentally ready, the friends I raced with reallly made me glad that I did. From people I’ve met here at McDaniel to those who I ran with back in high school, my running friends are some of the most important in my life, and they keep me coming back to the sport each year.
It’s been a great season, GTXC; I can’t wait for track!
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.