Collegiate Track v. Post-College Running

Author: Kaili T.

It was freshman year of high school that I decided that I wanted to run track. I had no running experience whatsoever, but my inability to dribble or hit balls gave me few options. I remember kicking off my athletic career on the first day of track practice by running a timed mile. I was greeted by 2nd to last place and the embarrassment that came with walking half of it. Needless to say, my first year and a half of outdoor track and field was spent avoiding running by throwing shot-put, disc, long jumping and running the occasional relay race that I always sucked at.

The end of sophomore year brought about a curious interest in racewalking, which not only looks rather silly, but is painful to boot. By senior year I had not only escaped almost all running events, but I repeatedly placed top 5 at the upper division State meets, was a team captain, and set a school record (which I lost at the State meet my senior year-can’t win um’ all kids.)

You would think that I would have jumped right into college track, but I knew there was no racewalking at my college so I didn’t look into it. Junior year of college brought about a short stint of heavy partying followed by a wake-up call that came about while experiencing feelings of envy while watching the track teams at practice. A coaching class that I was taking that winter was taught by the women’s track coach, who saw me run one day and suggested that I come out for the team. I figured that the only way to learn how to really run was to not give my self structure and eliminate the option to say no.

I ran two seasons of indoor track and two of outdoor track. Three seasons were spent running 200m and 400m races and my final outdoor season was spent training for the 800m run. I was okay at the races, but certainly no record-setter. Though I enjoyed the shorter races because they were shorter, I probably would have been most successful with the 800m, but college ended too soon for me to explore that race. It wasn’t until my organized track and field days were coming to a close that I realized that mid-distance running (the kind of running I was scared of) was where my niche was all along.

These days I try to run every day when the weather permits. I have a 3.5 mile loop I like to run most days during the warmer months. During the colder months I choose to divide my time between weight lifting and light to moderate running mixed with other cardio exercises. I have only run two 5k races since college graduation, but I ran better times than I would have ever imagined based upon how I ran in college.

I wouldn’t take back all of those years of running (and fear of running), but there are certainly some things about track that I miss and don’t miss.

I miss:

-The feeling of spikes on an outdoor track, running races at sunset, removal of my jersey after a race

-Being on a team. Spring training in FL, bonding with teammates, traveling, cheering on others, structured workouts

-The feeling of accomplishment and exhaustion after a great meet (followed by the inevitable junk food feast post-meet)

-Team awards, discount running shoes, unflattering uniforms

-Huddling with your teammates while cheering on a/the 4×4 team (if I didn’t have to run it of course)

-Having foam rollers readily available, the indoor track when it was too cold to run outside

-Having a great coach

But now I can:

-Tailor my workouts myself-work towards my running goals on my own time, modify my diet accordingly (which was hard when fatty cafeteria food was my first option). I am my own coach!

-Not have my stomach in knots 3 out of 7 days of the week due to pre-meet anxiety

-Split my exercise time between running and weight lifting

-Not be instructed to go sit in the whirlpool!!!! (I hated the damned ice bath)

-Wear even more unflattering spandex with no shame

-Be confident when I give running advice to friends

-Be even more confident that I have a solid base of running to build upon (I have no plans to stop!)

-Run faster than I ever did in college.

The moral of this story is that the journey ( and glory, mess, fear, triumph and frustration) that comes with running hopefully isn’t over just because college is finished. Use the knowledge you gained previously to build on. Like any other obstacle we face in our twenties-you can.

1 Comment
  1. I am transferring to a different Uni this fall and I have 2 more years to go until I graduate. I was always great in the 100m but anxiety caused me to suck at the beginning of every race which caused me to be one second behind. And even if I was ahead I would always look back which caused me to slow down even more. So I kinda gave up on track until I moved to the USA from Trinidad. I timed myself recently and I am completing the 100m in 11.3 seconds, its pretty decent for someone who didn’t train in years. My new Uni wants us to do it in 10.8 to qualify so I got some training to do. I think I can get there if I take training seriously once again. Some Uni’s are pretty strict on their qualifying time, once heard someone didn’t make the Virginia Tech team because they were .2 seconds off. To me that’s absurd but it’s whatever, just hope my new Uni isn’t that anal about it. I truly wanna run for my last two years, don’t want my talent go to waste.

    My dream is to qualify for the USOT for T&F which would mean I would have to keep running after I graduate. I am already scouting out local track clubs that are affiliated with USATF so hopefully I find one I like. Automatic was 10.18 and provisional was 10.28 for this year’s Olympics in the 100m, chances are I may never get that fast but I don’t like thinking that way. So I will just work my butt off until I am averaging 10.5, from there I can pick up speed by improving on my start and dig.

    Anyway enough about me, are you associated with USATF club yet or do you just run on your own? Also do you plan on doing it professionally?

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