The end of the semester brings with it the end of another cross country season.
Most of my teammates look forward to taper and afternoons free of practice. But this year I had to think of it a bit differently – as my last season of collegiate cross country, ever.
I didn’t come to Goucher to be an athlete; in fact, I didn’t even run my freshman year. My plan was to go to Goucher, major in English, and end up as a high school teacher. I never planned on writing for The Q, applying for my Ph.D, picking up a philosophy major, and especially not running year-round. But I did. I picked up running on a whim during my freshman year. The summer before my sophomore year, I asked head coach John Caslin if I could walk onto the cross country team. He said yes.
I came into my first practice during pre-season – the annual two-mile time trial – scared. I had never run on a track in my life. Somehow I finished within the main pack of girls, and it has stayed that way ever since. I’ve since run in six inches of snow, in the rain, in extreme heat, and down Van Meter highway with muddy “warpaint.”
I came into this season of cross country with high hopes. Spending the summer recovering from a metatarsal stress fracture and abroad on an ICA in China was not how I pictured my final summer training cycle. If you had asked me last track season about what I wanted my summer to look like, I would have told you that I wanted to be running 60-70 miles per week with a road race every two weekends. I wanted a season of personal records and solid workouts. The reality is that I spent a lot of the summer biking, and I only finished off the summer with around 45 miles per week and no road races. I was frustrated and unhappy and shed more tears than I had in a long while.
But I was welcomed back to the team with open arms and open hearts. I came back to a mix of freshmen and upperclassmen. The leadership and heart on the team led us to first place victories at the Baltimore Metro Meet and the York Invitational. It led us to five personal bests at regionals (I tied my personal best there). I only missed one workout of the season. By the end of my last cross country race at Lehigh, I felt like, after a summer and a season of disappointments, my choice to become a collegiate runner was – and is – the right one.
Cross country is, and always will be, a weird sport. You’re entirely alone, but you’re also fighting for a common goal. I hope that in the future, the foundation that the rest of the seniors and I have established will continue to lead the team to great things. It’s a strong group of very talented women with a lot of heart – and I’ll always be glad I made the decision to email Coach Caslin about running in the first place.