My sport is your sport’s punishment. Running. It’s hard to meet someone who enjoys running, let alone does it for competition. It typically has such a negative connotation and people are scared of it. What if I told you I loved it? What if I told you I hated it?
I am a runner and a member of the cross-country and track team at Samford University. People ask me, “What do you do besides run?” and honestly it’s just that. We do run and we run a lot. Our season starts the last few weeks of May and continues for the entire year, ending in the second week of May. It all starts, though, in the summer. For the entire summer, we train, train, and train. It’s 7 days a week, running anywhere from 70-100 miles in a week. We’re up super early trying to beat the summer heat. Some days it’s slow and other days it’s fast. We do this every week throughout the entire summer, fall, and spring whether it’s at the beach or before school or before a date with the girlfriend.
Everything in running builds off each other. Spring builds off Fall and Fall builds off Summer. Senior year builds off Junior year, which builds off Sophomore year, which builds off Freshman year. College training builds off high school training. All of summer is in preparation for cross-country. A wise coach once said, “November is won in June.” In laymen’s terms, you’ll never be achieving personal bests or winning championships in November if you did not put in the work in June. After cross-country is a brief break between seasons, but still preparing for the upcoming Indoor track season. Despite being “indoor” track, there’s hardly much indoor about it. Fortunately, training in Alabama is not that bad, but honestly you never know what to expect. Similar to cross-country, everything done in the indoor season leads up to a conference championship in late February. After indoor season comes outdoor track or as some say, the best time of the year. From March to May, it’s the pinnacle of everything you’ve been working for since the hot summer days.
Running is all about the cycle and routine. Everything is the same, day in and day out. Every day, it’s waking up at 5:30 and sleepily starting the run. After anywhere from 10-12 miles and properly stretching and driving back home, you quickly rush to class often forgoing the shower and eating a half-hearted breakfast. The worst part is often class. Your body is usually toast after working hard for such a long period of time and then you have to force yourself to stay awake and focus. Class ends and you can finally go home and catch a quick nap if necessary, but don’t blink, because at 4 o’clock it’s practice time again. You’re in the weight room really focusing on your core, balance, and other areas to help your running form. Your body is sore from previous day’s run and you force yourself to sit in the cold tub. Repeat this process for 5 days and the week is finally coming to a close and for most people that’s a time of celebration and relaxation, but for runners, it means one thing: Sunday long run. On Sundays, this is one of the most important days in the week of training. Consistently having a long run makes you stronger physically and mentally. Most weeks it is anywhere from 14 up to 19 miles. On some days time passes faster than others, but regardless, it’s two hours of doing the same thing over and over.
Running, in my opinion, is 75% mental and 25% physical. Some days I’m telling myself “This is terrible, just stop. Why do you do this? What’s the point?” But there’s something about crossing the finish line knowing you’ve gave your best effort. During a race or during practice, everyone is hurting and struggling around you, but you know you have to stay strong mentally first and your body will follow. Muhammad Ali said it best when he said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” From a runner’s standpoint, that directly correlates to training or to the race. Some days it’s terrible and extremely boring doing the exact same thing over and over, but nothing beats the feeling of crossing the finish line in success knowing you given it your best effort. Trials of Miles, Miles of Trials.