What Does It Mean to be a Post-Collegiate Runner?

Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus

Christine has written 17 posts on Salty Running.

I'm a collegiate Maryland-based, coffee-fueled distance runner who loves track workouts. On the rare occurrence that I'm not running, I'm probably doing handstands in the library stacks as a paper-writing break!

During the first weekend of May, I had my final collegiate track meet on Long Island, running one race, the 10,000m. This was my final shot to stand on the podium and my final chance to PR and get some points for the team. I was seeded fifth, and was lucky enough to finish in eighth. I did it. I did everything I wanted to do during my final track season – PR in the 10K and place at conference championships.

On the podium, finally.

On the podium, finally!

Since I didn’t PR during conferences – I did during the home meet back in March – I still felt ready to run afterwards. I didn’t think my career was close to being over, despite having run nearly 100% to train for collegiate competition since the summer of 2011.

 

Not having practice, with a very strict workout schedule, was hard for me, so I signed up for a half marathon a week after conferences. I decided to run it easy, seeing as my legs were still pretty dead from the 10K, and racing 6.2 miles is actually quite different from racing 13.1 miles (as I found out after my way-too-fast first 5K of the half). It did really remind me why running is fun – but after having free entries to races the past few years, shelling out nearly $100 to run a race easily made post-collegiate running already seem like an expensive task!

The graduating senior XC/track runners at our athletic  banquet.

The graduating senior XC/track runners with our coach at our athletic banquet.

Now, I’m in that weird in-between. I haven’t run longer than seven miles since my half, and I haven’t run every day, either. All of my runs have been solo, none of them have been speedwork, and with a full-time job and a move in the coming month I don’t know how I’m going to fit any more runs in.

When I first started blogging over here last summer, my persona – like it has been in almost every facet of my life – has been as a track runner. That’s how my coworkers, my family, my professors, and my friends all see me. But running on the same trails, alone, every morning doesn’t have the same charm as going to practice at 4PM every day, followed by ice baths and dinner with my team. It’s hard to follow a training plan I found online instead of one mandated by my coach.

I’m struggling, big-time, with what it means to be a post-collegiate runner. Do I have goal races? Do I have to run half marathons, or do I have to step up to the big leagues and train for a full? How long can I do these short five-milers alone until I have to buckle down and start a training plan, especially if I want to run the Charles Street 12? And where would I even find a training plan for a 12 mile race?

When I met with my coach for my end of season meeting, I said that I regretted nothing about this season. I had goals – to PR and to place – and I met both of them. I got over a lot of my anxieties and was able to finish a 5K on the track, something I had been afraid of just a few months before. He told me it was clear that I loved running, and this wasn’t something I was going to give up. And it’s true, I’m not – and never will, hopefully! – but the question remains: what do I do now?

I’m so fortunate to have such amazing role models here at Salty Running; mothers, Olympic qualifiers, and just amazing women in general.  Hopefully, they can guide me through this new phase of my life. No matter what, I’ll be running through it, even if I don’t know exactly what it means to be a post-collegiate runner quite yet.

Are any of you Salties out there former college athletes, or can you relate?

6 Responses to “What Does It Mean to be a Post-Collegiate Runner?”

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  1. Garlic says:

    Congratulations on your graduation and on meeting your collegiate running goals! I have no doubt at all that you will figure out what running means/is to you going forward, and you yourself are already serving as a strong role model for young female runners. Best wishes!!!

  2. Gail says:

    I was a collegiate runner also (I wasn’t any good, but I was on the team!) and a high school runner, so the standard 3:00-4:00 PM workout with a team and coach routine was really ingrained in me. I was also lost when I graduated- I could run in the morning, or afternoon, and for however long I wanted! And whatever races I wanted! It can definitely be overwhelming.

    My advice is to explore different race distances and settings- I found that the half marathon is my favorite distance, although I’m also partial to the more rare 10-miler (check out the Broad Street 10-miler in Philadelphia, held every first Sunday in May!). Picking goal races for me has been really helpful in figuring out how I want to structure my training time and what I do on a day-to-day basis.

    Side note, I’m also planning to run the Charles Street 12! We moved to Baltimore last summer, and this looks like a really fun race. If you have run it before, I would love to hear your thoughts!

  3. Catnip Catnip says:

    Congrats on graduation and the new job! And welcome to post-collegiate running. Post-collegeiate running requires a lot more discipline but I love it so much more than college. Are you planning to look for a group to run with after your move? That is the best way to make new friends and stay consistent, and most of my teammates have improved a lot since graduation. Looking forward to your updates!

  4. Catnip Catnip says:

    OMG, I am cringing at my “post-collegiate” typo! Ouch.

  5. Jocelyn says:

    Where in Maryland are you? There’s a super fast running team around here (I’m in Bethesda) with a bunch of post-collegiate runners that may be able to help your transition. I’m too slow right now but transitioning from triathlons back into more running. Check them out! http://www.grcrunning.com

  6. Kathy says:

    I would echo the idea of finding a group to train with, my collegiate days are decades behind me but I do remember how hard it was to transition from that structured, predictable late afternoon training and meals with the team to fitting it in solo. Over the years I have become a morning runner as that works better with my current life – job, kids etc. – and have been lucky enough to find groups of people to do long runs or track workouts with so I am only on my own a couple of days per week. Take some time to figure out what goals you want to set for yourself – all running? road vs trail vs open track meets? maybe try a tri? etc. and hopefully you can find others with common interests to train with…good luck and congratulations on achieving all you set out to do this year!

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