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"Well, What Now?" Life After College Running

September 12, 2017

I am writing this to explain my summer and the raw emotions of figuring out what to do when college is over. I know a lot of athletes and students alike go through this.. I knew I was going to take a year to study for the MCAT, but that was about it. Here is the first chapter of a three part blog. I hope you enjoy. 

 

Part 1...

"Well, What now?" Those were the words that immediately came to mind this past May after the 1500m quarterfinals in Lexington, Kentucky; realizing my Division I days of running were over. Crushed after not punching my ticket to Oregon and nationals, a goal I had had in mind since my first day freshman year at Wake Forest, I felt as if the air had been knocked out me. True, I may have been a bit out of breathe after the race, but mentally, it would not be for a while until I could truly take a deep, calming breathe. At that moment though, all I knew is that the reality I had prided, abided, and honed on living was over, this chapter was done, the final edits in, and the prints being made. No matter how much I wish I could relive that chapter as a Division I athlete at a top university, I could not. Now I had to begin my next chapter, life as a graduate.

 

Walking back to the tent at Regionals, staring at the ground, I racked my brain, trying to figure out my next move. Even the simple stuff such as “should I go cool down,” did not have a meaningful answer anymore because what was the point? It was not like I had practice the next day or a race next week. Feeling emotionally distressed, I called my Dad and identical twin sister/best friend Kristen, both offering me words of comfort and condolences. They told me how proud they were and told me I would be okay. Despite their sweet words, I still felt so utterly lost. Without even really thinking about it, I pulled out my phone again and called the one guy I knew would know what I should do, Tim Goldsack. Now, Tim and I go way back. I am talking summer of 2009 way back. Back to the days where I thought a five mile run was considered a long run and running in shoes until they had holes in them was funny. Not only did Tim help design summer training plans and workouts during my high school summer and winter breaks, but he used his connections to introduce me to coaches such as Brad Hunt, the coach I would end up running for my first 3 years at college. Above all of this, Tim has helped me through it all, offering advice to running and non-running things alike, congratulating me on my victories, and cheering me up after loses. He has truly become part of my family as well as my friend and coach.

 

 

Calling Tim, he let me cry as I told him about the black abyss I felt I had fallen into, how I felt like the best part of my life was over, and now I had no clue what I would do. After I was done blabbering, he told me the one thing that stopped my spiraling, “Kat, you aren’t done. Go put your shoes on and cool down. You are joining RunCCG. Training starts tomorrow.” Upon hearing his words, I knew he was right. Sure, my collegiate running days were over, but a new form was just starting, post collegiate running. In the dark that night, listening to my cool down playlist, and jogging under the street lamps, I made a vow to myself that I would keep doing this thing that I love until the day I choose to hang up the spikes, and doing whatever I had to keep it going.

 

The week following Regionals, Tim had me keep it light, jogging about 45 minutes a day with some easy strides. Despite having an easy training week, everything for the next couple of months would prove to be more strenuous and challenging. While running was going according to plan, I was faced with some very serious decision making; such as “where do I live now?” and “how do I support myself?” These questions would not have answers for several more weeks. After moving out of my house at Wake, I ended up crashing on my older sister’s couch in Chapel Hill for the next month. During that time, it seemed as if time was passing by so slowly but so quickly all at once.  I spent most of my time waiting for my next workout or trying to find busy work so I would not have to face the reality of my situation. I was basically homeless and unemployed trying to answer questions that I had no clue how to solve. How was I supposed to know where I should move, how to get there, or what to do when I got there?

 

As the stress of lacking answers kept building up, I could see again what the stress of it all was doing to my running. My emotions would interfere with workouts and my overall daily life. Track sessions that should have been easy left me exhausted or in tears when I felt I couldn't do it. Eventually, I started to procrastinate on going for runs until I was almost dark outside, and outside of all this, I saw myself becoming more disgruntled and snippy towards my friends and family. What also added to the strain my running was having no training partners. I have always enjoyed training and running with others. It makes long runs more bearable and hard track sessions more enjoyable. However, in Chapel Hill, I did not know anyone I could run with and based on my terrible disposition, I did not really venture out to find a training buddy.

 

Fed up with being indecisive, I sat down, thoroughly conversing with my family, and decided what I should do. I decided the best decision for me was to move to Charleston, South Carolina. I would have some family support nearby and I also be able to become a state resident for when I applied to medical school. Unfortunately, Charleston does not have any huge groups of professional runners, but that would just be something to figure out on my own.

 

Shortly after my decision to move to Charleston, I immediately left Chapel Hill, crashing on a friend’s couch one night before making the final drive to Charleston. There I would spend the next two months trying to answer even tougher questions such as “where will I live?” and “what I will do for financial support?” Trying to settle my living and employment situation proved to be a more monstrous task and stressful than trying to figure out what city to live. With every route I went down trying to find a place to live, I was only left at a dead end. Places were either too expensive or not available in the time frame I needed it. Running was the only thing that started going right. When I would get mad or frustrated, I would take off on a run, returning with a cleared mind. I started getting used to training by myself, not minding the time alone. The track workouts that weeks ago felt impossible started becoming easier. Instead of pitying myself, I decided that I would make the best of things I could control and stop worrying about things I couldn’t. Instead of beating myself about a workout that did not go perfectly, I would take all the positives out of the day and let go of the negatives. Even if an entire run felt terrible, I would be proud that I went out that day and got it done. Each day, each workout, was a step towards progression.

 

As the summer went on and workouts became more consistent, Tim and I decided it was time to see what racing shape I was in. We decided on the Ryan Shay Mile in Charlevoix, Michigan. Booking a plane ticket on my own for the first time, I was all ready to go when another road block crossed my path. Weather conditions delayed my flight out of Charleston, and after talking to the airline customer service, I would not be able to get a flight into Michigan until the race was already over. Therefore, I was left with nothing to do except cancel the entire trip. Great start into the post collegiate running world right? 

I know this sounds doom and gloom, but it gets better, I promise.

 

 

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