Running After College

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My mom and I pose for a Strava-worthy selfie after a hot and humid long run on the Jamaica Homestead Trail in South Lincoln.

It’s been nearly five months since the NSIC and the NCAA canceled the spring 2020 sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic — consequently ending my collegiate running career earlier than expected. Not many people talk about what life is like immediately after sports, so I wanted to shed some light on the post-collegiate running experience and the various emotions that come with it. However, encapsulating this life stage as a whole is impossible to do through just one story. So last week, I asked former collegiate athletes to share their post-graduation running perspectives. Here’s what they had to say:

Leah Seivert ’19, Augustana University

Running plans: “I have been mostly training for fun. In the beginning of the pandemic, I loosely said I wanted to run a half marathon by the end of the summer. At first, I wasn’t sold on running more than my classic four miles a day, but I soon got into it after I was done teaching for the year. I still don’t do any workouts — just easy runs — but have been enjoying challenging myself to run longer again. I hope to run the half marathon once the humidity breaks a bit.”

Pros of post-collegiate running: “I love the flexibility and freedom. I don’t feel pressure to be fit by a certain date or to match up to anyone else. It’s glorious!”

What I miss about college: “I miss having teammates to run with. Although I enjoy getting out and going for a run solo, I wish every run didn’t have to be alone.”

 

Nate Pierce ’20, University of Nebraska-Kearney

Running plans: “I considered running with a club team after graduating, but that sort of fell through after I hurt my foot and wasn’t able to run for a few months. Right now, I think I’ll just try to run on my own for at least the next year or so.”

What I miss about college: “I miss being a part of a team and working towards something with others. I miss the fellowship with the guys each and every day. Going to practice was always the best part of my day.”

 

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Photo by Elizabeth Yoder. Photo courtesy of Amanda Peterson.

Amanda Peterson ’19, Augustana University

Running plans: “With all the race cancellations, I’m running just to run, and I love it! Once racing starts back up again, I would love to nab a couple PRs in the shorter distances and run a marathon. I am training with Yellowstone Valley Distance Project, which helped me meet a lot of other runners and also helped motivate me to do speed work, which is my least favorite thing to do.”

Pros of post-collegiate running: “Running after college has given me the opportunity to learn to love running again. It’s been amazing to get a break from the stress and pressure because in the end, you’re really only running for yourself now. It’s refreshing to go out the door because I want to, not because I have to.”

What I miss about college: “I miss the team and all of my friends the most. There truly is no atmosphere quite like a collegiate cross country team. Luckily, I get to visit a lot of my old teammates and keep in touch over social media, which makes it a little less sad.”

 

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Photo courtesy of Erin Lee.

Erin Lee ’20, Kansas State University

Running plans: “I’d love to train for road and even trail races eventually, but I’m just enjoying running as it is for now.”

Pros of post-collegiate running: “I fell hard out of love with running in college after never being able to fully break out of the injury cycle, but my favorite part about running now is slowly falling in love with it and finding that part of me again. It took almost a year, but it’s so fun for me now, and sometimes it’s the best part of my day.”

What I miss about college: “I miss the team aspect and getting to be part of a huge family. I miss driving out, post long run pancake parties, traveling and getting to see parts of the country we’ve never seen before, and just really everything about it. My teammates became some of the most important people in my life.”

 

Kyle Blakeslee ’14, Augustana University

Running plans: “A few years after college, I moved to Boulder, Colorado, to run for a team. It was a great experience, but I haven’t run competitively for almost two years now. Now I just run for fun, for stress relief, for a little exercise.” 

Pros of post-collegiate running: “In college, my life was consumed by running (which wasn’t a bad thing). Six years post college, I’m finally learning to use other forms of exercise to stay healthy. Right now, I attend cross fit classes regularly and bike 3-4 days a week. I don’t always have to run. I like that I can switch it up and not feel pressure to get a workout or a certain amount of miles in during a week. Running will always be my favorite form of exercise, but it’s fun to try new things.”

What I miss about college: “I really miss the team aspect of college. I miss being able to go to practice and see all my friends, everyone suffering together during a workout and always having someone to run with no matter what time of the day or night it is. I found that it was much easier to stay motivated while training for races in college as opposed to post-college training.”

 

Josh Barrows ’19, Augustana University

Running plans: “I would like to run at least one marathon in my life, but in general, I like the feeling of being able to run a hard workout. I would also like to build friendships and community through running. Some of the best conversations happen on runs, and I would hate to lose that facet of my community. I am also trying to get into some sort of racing condition in order to rabbit for the Augie team, since I will be an assistant coach at Augustana for the next two years. I would like to stay in good enough shape to run casual races and to jump in meets unattached. I have a personal goal of running at least one 400 meter hurdles race every year for the foreseeable future. This was a large part of my competitive running career, so I would like to keep it alive for as long as I can.”

Pros of post-collegiate running: “I like having a little more freedom with my runs. I can go out for a run at whatever pace I feel like going and for however far I feel like going. But even more so, I can now use running to explore more. I have paid attention to my surroundings a lot more since college, so I think that post-collegiate running has allowed me to spend a little more time appreciating where I live and where I run. I have been able to slow down and contemplate life and the importance of place a little bit on each one of my runs.”

What I miss about college: “The collegiate running community is really something special. I miss seeing people every day and conversing with people who I now call some of my best friends. When you sweat and endure pain next to people, you grow close together and I miss the closeness of the collegiate running team. Secondarily, I miss the schedule. When I was in collegiate athletics, I was able to craft my daily schedule around my runs and workouts. My workouts changed the way that I ate, the time I went to bed and woke up, when I took classes or scheduled meetings. In a way, I was able to center my days around my practices and let everything else fall into place around them. Now, running is more of something that I do if I have time. Sometimes I feel like my runs and workouts have to be rushed, and I really miss making running a firm priority.”

 

Megan Billington ’19, University of South Dakota

Running plans: “I am still running for fun, but I’m also on the Lincoln Running Company Team.”

Pros of post-collegiate running: “The thing I like most about running after college is that I don’t feel like I have to do anything. I know that when I go for runs, it’s strictly because I love it. I loved every minute of college running, but there were definitely times when it felt like workouts and runs were getting done because I had to. It’s nice to remind yourself that if you’re still running, you truly do love it.”

What I miss about college: “I miss having a group of girls that are my best friends and getting to run with them and go through so much everyday with them. I also miss having the structured running schedule and a set time for practice everyday. It’s hard to work in runs and workouts with everyday work life and adult life. It has been a little difficult to adjust to not having that set time every day.”

*Responses edited for length and clarity.

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