As I entered my freshman year at Babson, I was filled with anticipation and excitement surrounding the countless learning opportunities I would soon experience. What I didn't expect, though, was that some of the most important lessons I'd gain throughout college would come from varsity athletics, and that many of those lessons would be more valuable than anything I could have gained in the classroom. As I reflect on the past four years, I'm more than happy to share some of the key takeaways from my time as a cross country and track runner here at Babson.
The whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Every single member of this team counts, and everyone plays an important role. To outsiders unfamiliar with the sports, cross country and track may seem like individual endeavors, but anyone who has run through mud, pouring rain, scorching heat, and freezing cold will tell you otherwise. With each race through terrible weather, a challenging course, or a worthy competitor, you discover that these sports aren't possible without the support of each other on the start line, or those surrounding the track to cheer you on. The older I got, the more I realized that it's immensely more rewarding to be the fifth man on a strong team than the first man on a weaker one. Especially in my later role as a team captain, I came to recognize that in order to make the team grow stronger, it's important to foster the growth of every single member.
It isn't over until it's over. Every point counts; the final sprint is the hardest part, and it can have the biggest impact. Running reminded me over and over again that I always have more to give than I think I do, and when the going gets tough the tough get going. In the end, whether it's a challenging class or running a 5k through mud, every point counts and although the final sprint is when you're the most exhausted you have to push through to the bitter end.
The meaning of grit. As the miles start to add up, so does the toll on your body and mind. Every injury and every moment of self-doubt taught me that pain and struggle are relative; the difference between those those who give up and those who find a way to keep going is a little thing called grit. Learning how to manage these mental and physical challenges and recognizing how to become a "gritty" athlete has been one of my biggest advantages over the last four years, especially as I continue to see the talent and competition get more fierce every year.
You don't know what you have until it's gone. Taking breaks from running was always the most difficult part for me. Whether it was the month off between the end of cross country and the beginning of track, or a few weeks off due to injury, time away from the sports made me realize that you don't know what you have until it's gone. Although the miles can grow monotonous, you will miss them more than anything when they are no longer there.
Patience. Running taught me that I must be patient, and trusting the process is the only way to success. You can't jump in full throttle no matter how desperately you want to and you have to trust that after months of hard work it will all eventually pay off. With a seemingly never-ending nine week preseason in track, it can be difficult to remember that the goal is to run fast in May, but with patience, commitment, and perseverance it always paid off in the end.
What you give is what you'll get. You can't take short cuts, you can't wish for miracles, and hard work will ultimately always beat out talent if those with talent aren't working hard. I have always considered my work ethic to be one of my strengths, and I continue to remind myself of this when I frequently encounter other athletes with more raw talent than myself. With each passing year, I have seen the benefits of never giving up on my own hard work. Now, as graduation quickly approaches, I know I will have to apply this mindset to all of the challenges that come with entering the "real world" too.
In the end, these lessons have shaped me into a better person than I ever would have been without running. I couldn't be more grateful for my time as a student-athlete at Babson, and I know all of these lessons will stay with me after I graduate, just as running will stay with me too.