When you think of running in college you might think of intense competition and pressure to be the top runner on the team. You might think college athletes are the antithesis of the college partier, people who never go out past 9:00 and pass on the pizza as we fixate on our race weight for fear of getting cut from the team.
Maybe it’s more like that at a big Division I school, but my experience as a Division III cross country and track runner (which is much different than DI) is so far from these stereotypes, it’s laughable!
There are also some truths about college athletics that do not receive the attention they deserve. I want to share my experience and also to take on the myths and bust them!
MYTH: Collegiate runners must prioritize running over academics.
While this might be true at larger schools, this has certainly not been true in my experience. If anything, I would say that being a college athlete has helped me maintain my grades! My team is an amazing resource for getting advice about classes and help before an exam.
TRUTH: Individual accomplishments cannot be compared to sharing victories with your teammates.
Getting an A on a paper is satisfying, but winning a meet with your teammates feels way cooler.
MYTH: Collegiate runners can’t have fun because they’re always in training mode.
Yes, there definitely is a time and a place to stay up late, not get enough sleep, and eat junk food. However, being a college athlete has not prevented me from enjoying myself one bit. I still go out for ice cream with friends and allow myself to have fun on weekends that we’re not competing! It is true that I am stricter about eating healthy and getting 8+ hours of sleep on the nights leading up to racing, but overall I have never felt like being an athlete has held me back from doing what I want to do socially.
TRUTH: A runner’s team might instantly become her family at school.
Some of my best friends at school are my teammates, and how could they not be? We spend anywhere between 45-90 minutes running together everyday, talking about whatever comes to mind. What really glues us together, however, are the tough workouts that we work through together.
MYTH: Colleges provide their runners extra resources that makes school and life easier.
Not true for DIII athletes. We do not receive any additional academic help other than the services that are available to every other student. Classes are just as hard for us as they are for other people, especially because we have to balance out when we can study and when we have practice and competitions.
TRUTH: Participating in school athletics will help you stay physically and mentally healthy by providing structure in every aspect of your life.
I have a set schedule almost every day and I have figured out when I need to shower, eat, study, and relax. Sometimes my least productive days are days that I don’t have practice because I have time that I can waste. Having that kind of structure provides me with the support I need to make it through the tough stuff and the freedom and empowerment to make positive choices in all aspects of my educational career .
And really, I could make the truths list go on and on, because running in college has been one of the best decisions I have ever made!
Are there any myths or truths about college athletics that I am missing? Did you run for a different NCAA division? Let’s hear about it!