Peter Martin, a junior Mechanical Engineer and cross-country runner, writes of the challenges and joys of being a student athlete.
5:30 a.m. More than enough time to get dressed and be at practice by 6, but after finishing homework only 5 hours ago, my brain refuses to function. The routine is slow even though I’ve been doing it for 6 years. Sleep in my clothes. Fall out of bed. Pull on my socks. Tie my shoes. Stumble to the door. Think about how nice it would be to still be sleeping while I walk through the crisp morning air to join my teammates. It will all be over soon and I’ll miss it then – not the early mornings, and not necessarily the long runs, but the time spent with friends made close by the gruesome training, the
lack of sleep and the common complaints.
Our cross country team is as close as any other athletic team and probably weirder than most. People don’t understand why we “like” running and most of the time we don’t either. It’s a love/hate relationship. We love going out to eat before or after a race. We hate Louisiana’s bumpy roads
that make it impossible to stay asleep on the bus. We love laughing with each other on the warm up laps before practice. We hate getting up at 4 a.m. on a Saturday to race, returning at 1 in the afternoon and finding our roommates still asleep. We love beating our times on a great course. We hate the injuries that seem almost inevitable. But we wouldn’t quit. We know our teammates need us to endure with them. And most of us rely on it to keep us sane in a rigorous academic schedule.
Being a student-athlete is hard. How hard depends on which sport and which major you choose. For me the energy sapping cross country training paired with the 16 hours of mechanical engineering, an average for most non-athletes, can be too much. Sometimes I can’t balance it and my grades fall. I am constantly reminded that I am here to get an education not just to run. Staying awake in class is probably the hardest part. Running for two hours in the morning after insufficient sleep definitely makes it a challenge to not nod off. Our coach understands though and will occasionally grant us permission to run in the afternoon so we can study later or get more sleep for tests. We are fortunate to have a coach who emphasizes academics over athletics.
My favorite memory from this season has to be the Gator Run in Shreveport, Louisiana where both the men and women placed 1st as a team. It was a good race to relax a little and run faster, not worrying about pace as much as other races and getting to compete in a 5,000 meter race instead of the traditional 8,000 meters. I look forward to running it again next year.
Our team is very strong this year. We only have one senior on the team this year and although we will miss him next year, it is exciting to know we will be stronger and faster as a team. We all have high hopes for the 2013 season.
Peter (far right) and his teammates after the Gator Run in Shreveport, Louisiana, where both men and women's team took first place. Go YellowJackets!!