Andrea Seccafien is a Canadian 5,000m runner and Olympian. She is the latest addition to Canadian Running’s blog roll.
To the soon to be graduating student athlete:
You’ve run your last race in your university’s singlet. Maybe that last USports race went the way you had always dreamed, or maybe you ended your varsity career in defeat. But what do you do next? Do you keep chasing the dream or do you hang up the spikes and enter the working world? I want to encourage you to keep running, to hold on to whatever goals you still have and go after them relentlessly.
But there are a few obstacles to get through first.
If you’re not carded or don’t receive support from your province, then there’s going to be a financial struggle that you’re going to have to maneuver in some way. This shouldn’t discourage you. I’ve had full time jobs where I had to go into an office. I’ve also had flexible situations where I worked from home. In whatever job you land, it’s best to be upfront with your employer about your running and explain to them foreseen time commitments for practice and travel. Let them know what your goals are. Be honest.
Another question to address is where you’ll continue to train. Staying with your varsity team is often a good option to ease the transition, but sometimes a change after four years can reignite the fire or bring improvement.
Whatever you choose, try to be in a situation where you still have to meet with people for regular practice times– even if it’s just your coach and you. Many people struggle to continue to train because without a varsity team, there’s less structure. Motivation wanes. By continuing to uphold a routine, you’re more likely to stay committed.
Regardless of where you end up, appreciate the finite amount of time in which you can chase your running aspirations and let that be a source of inspiration and gratitude for you. You’re doing something risky and unconventional, but ultimately hugely satisfying. Take a minute every day to just be thankful that you have a skill that you’re willing to pursue despite the difficulties.
When you’re in a stage of being an amateur athlete, I can guarantee that you’ll encounter people who don’t get it. These are the people who’ll only ask if you’ve made the Olympics. My best advice is to ignore those people, an surround yourself with people who know where you’re coming from.
If you’re graduating and still on the fence as to whether or not you’ll keep it up, let me ask you this: In 10 years, are you going to look back and be upset that you quit? Travelling around the world to train and compete is a wonderful existence that shouldn’t be passed over because of societal pressures to move on. You have your whole life to go back to school or build a career. Being an athlete is a totally different experience that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.
If you simply can’t stand the thought of double days or standing on a start line as an anxious mess, that’s okay too. But I hope that you’ll continue to run for recreation. It would be a shame to let your fitness go to waste. If for nothing else, run to relieve stress of carve out some alone time during a busy day. Hey, even transfer that fitness if you like. Give another endurance sport a try to keep things fresh if need be.