What will I miss most from college? Unlimited food, communal living, parties every weekend? Sometimes this is what college is construed to be, but I do not believe that these are what I will miss most about college. Now of course, you would expect me to say running is what I will miss the most.
Well it's not. Not the least bit. Well at least, not exactly.
I've never really loved running. Not the act of it, it's always been something to endure. Sure I've had good workouts and good runs, ones that feel much better than normal, but these were merely more tolerable than others. No, it is not running I will miss, it is what running has made available to me. What is easily attainable is usually not very valuable. What is valuable then, must be difficult to achieve, and running makes things difficult. Running is my adversary, it is what stands between me and my goals. But it is also, in a twisted way, what makes my goals more valuable. It must be overcome, triumphed over, defeated. Why can I not race as fast as I want? Because running stops me. To overcome this adversary takes time and energy in large amounts, but the results are real. I feel it when I succeed. One of the few things I love about running is how difficult it really is to beat. If running wins 9 out of 10 workouts, if running through its representatives, my opponents, wins 9 out of 10 races, it only makes that one victory sweeter. When you are a distance runner you cannot escape it. Every day it confronts you, and every day you don't give in is a small triumph.
This is where the unique team attitude of running is born. In running, in a way that is different from most sports, it really is your team against the world. Not only must you overcome opposing teams and individuals, you must work together to fight the very basis of your sport itself. Running wants to break down your body, to tear your tendons and crush your bones slowly through stress fracture after stress fracture. Together we face this every day. We grow closer through the common understanding, through a common foe. My teammates might describe this differently, "It's not running that we hate!" They might proclaim, but this is semantics. To race is hard, to race well is harder, to succeed you must meet pain, you must do what others will not. Every race is a journey into the darkness of your own self doubt, into the fog of exhaustion, but it is a journey you know your teammates have also undertaken. You see their commitment every day.
To work hard towards a single goal, a single activity, is something that I feel is often overlooked and undervalued here at Harvard. In a culture that encourages as many clubs, extracurriculars, and activities as possible, we often forget that there is value in commitment. This is not to ignore the great benefits of the myriad of opportunities we have available here at Harvard.
It is fantastic that we have so many options, but it often breeds social pressure to be involved in as many as possible.
Running collegiately does not allow this. We compete fall, winter, and spring, with the summer reserved for base training. The amount of rest and tune-up work required quickly limits other extracurricular activities. Many look at this as an unfortunate side effect of running, but I have come to look at it as an opportunity. It's rare to be able to work hard, day after day, next to others pursuing the same goals, especially when no one is getting paid.
This is what I thank Harvard, and my teammates here, for: the rare opportunity to toil voluntarily next to other men, the feeling of unity in opposition and distinction to the rest of humanity. I have seen my teammates at their weakest points, and they have seen me at mine. We may not all be best friends, but we share a bond forged and tested by the road, by the track, and by the run, something that only we can understand.