Many young runners are beginning their collegiate running careers in the coming days. Running in university or college is different than running in high school, and though this sounds obvious, sometimes the differences aren’t clear until you reach that next level. With the beginning of the school year upon us, here are some tips and tricks to navigating your time as a varsity runner (or things to contemplate if you’re considering running at school).

Connor Black men’s winner of U Sports cross-country 2018. Photo: Maxine Gravina

You may not PB in first year

In fact, you likely won’t. Lots of runners arrive at the post-secondary institution of their choosing with big athletic dreams. Those dreams can certainly be realized, but it might not happen in the time frame that you were anticipating. First year is rife with changes, and this will show in your training and racing. It’s hard to perform at your best when everything about your life (including running) has changed. Be patient with yourself, and know that an athletic plateau in first year is extremely common.

2018 U Sports Track Championships
Photo: Guelph Gryphons/Instagram

You may feel overwhelmed at times

Becoming a varsity athlete is a big undertaking, emotionally and practically. Runners are trying to be good students, while also making new friends and excelling athletically–this is a lot to accomplish all at once.

Remember to take yourself away from academic and athletic stress and give yourself some time to have fun. You’re (hopefully) only in first year once.

You have to achieve a certain grade standard to stay on the team…

…and to maintain your scholarship (if you got one). The grade average is attainable, typically around a 65 per cent, but be aware of the number so that a loss of scholarship or academic probation doesn’t catch you off guard.

You will travel a lot, so plan accordingly

Especially if you plan on running both cross-country and track, you will be on the road a lot for meets. Side note: you will tell yourself you’ll get homework done while you’re away, but you almost never actually do. Make sure to account for this when planning studying hours and assignment completion.

Be honest about your training

Many first year students are under the impression that they need to impress their new coach and teammates right off the bat. Try your best to avoid this mindset–your coach recruited you, so chances are, they want you there. Don’t inflate the mileage you did in high school or run at a pace you’re not used to. If you’re not being honest with your coach, your chances of injury are much higher.

Seek help from older teammates

Older members of your team are your allies. They’ve recently been through exactly what you’re experiencing, so remember to use them as resources to bounce ideas off or express concerns to. The worst-case scenario is that they can’t answer your question, but they’ll likely point you to someone who can.

Take a nap

Take naps whenever possible, because there’s no way you’re sleeping enough.

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