By Kendall Sommers, III Form
Cross Country Running: A Lesson in Collaboration
Running is like a weight being lifted off your shoulders, pushing through boundaries and working through physical and mental obstacles. The first day of cross country, I fell in love with the sport. The sweat dripping off my face after a half hour of the most intense cardio I had ever done. The feeling of cool water refreshing my parched throat. But best of all, the mutual feeling of accomplishment among my teammates and me. It was eighth grade, last year, and I had never been on a team for running before. In fact, I had never run more than in my middle school basketball games or during gym class fitness testing. But nevertheless, I was drawn into the sport after hearing how rewarding it was from friends. And those friends were right.
Running is powered by individual ambition, but supported by a team. Having never run on a serious, all-girls, competing team before, coming to Saint Mark’s I did not know what to expect. Arriving at preseason, I could tell right away that it was the type of team you could join having run a half marathon over the summer or half a mile, and still feel important and valued as a teammate and friend. The captains launched us right into stretching and warming up and then into running. We started by running for thirty minutes without stopping, and that grew to a challenging sixty minutes by the end of the season. I hadn’t realized how perfectly simple the sport of cross country was. Lace up your shoes. Hit the pavement. Work hard. Repeat. So I repeated, every day for ten weeks. Slowly becoming faster, slowly becoming closer to my teammates and quickly adjusting to life at Saint Mark’s.
Each day at Saint Mark’s is structured to accommodate academics, socialization, and athletics. These three things work perfectly together and with the separated time, I find myself happier and productive. I had always heard that playing an instrument or doing a sport heightened your ability to perform academically. Although this being mentioned was a common occurrence, I had never given it much thought. The past month, I reflected on the season so far and realized I had improved my productivity and performance in all aspects of my life. Going to practice and having designated time for working out, de-stressing and socializing, gave me the opportunity to focus on my work directly when I had the time to. I now sleep well and feel happier, thanks to the endorphins.
Productivity is not the only thing I have gained from being a student-athlete though. Lessons taught in running are easily carried into the classroom every day. Asking for help in running is a key part of being a successful participant. When you are in pain, need to cross train or communicate that you need a break is difficult, but it is so important so you do not get injured. The same thing applies to academics. When you need help with a task or need an extra explanation, learning how to ask for help is vital.
Running is one of the hardest things I have ever done. From monster hills to radical weather and pain, it seems like there is not something too extreme to run through. Perseverance is as simple as moving yourself forward, but as hard as finishing a 5k in torrential rain and shin splints: Perseverance in school is just as hard. Sitting down to rewrite that essay, going in for extra help again, or just going to class. This type of grit is taught in every sport and every class at Saint Mark’s.
One thing I learned this cross country season is the importance of cooling down. After running, you need your muscles to relax slowly and your body to physically cool down. Sometimes you need to take a day off to just rest, often that can make you a better runner than trying to train when you’re tired, injured or sick. The same thing applies to classes. After a long week of homework and tests and classes, a day to have some time to rest is so important.
As crucial as all of these lessons are, I think the most important is collaboration. Taught not just in running, but in all sports, collaboration is a necessity on any team. Without working together and supporting teammates and coaches, a goal will not be scored, a win will not be earned, a touchdown will not be scored or a meet will not be won. Collaboration is seen in group projects, class discussions, tutoring groups and in everyday life at Saint Mark and beyond. That is how being a student-athlete creates a new perspective. Each lesson learned at each practice and each coach, teammate, and friend has an impact on each student, and those impacts create change and improvement. The values taught in sports follow athletes to their relationships, classes, and jobs.
After reflecting on this season, I understand the concept of what it means to be a student-athlete more deeply, and I can love running even more because of it.
Kendall Sommers is a III Former from Southborough, MA. She loves running, writing, painting and playing with her dogs.