by Johnathon Goodenow

People often ask runners why they choose to put their bodies through the pain and effort that competitive racing requires. There is also a mental element of running that is especially relevant in track, however. Athletes compete as part of a team, yet they are separated by a great number of different events. Sprinters, distance runners, throwers, and jumpers all have unique skills and may even practice differently within those categories. Distance runners who compete in the 800 meters practice differently than those who compete in the 5,000 meters. While they are both distance events, the length of each race has a large impact on the pace that runners will attempt to maintain. The Greenville College team makes an effort to reduce the disconnect between athletes. Before every practice, the team circles up to pray together. On the first practice day after a meet, the team has a longer meeting to recap the meet and hear a devotional from Coach Patton. Teammates also meet together for study tables and bible studies. However, none of this changes the fact that track is a very individualized sport.

Athletes in track are motivated by different things than other athletes. Track athletes don’t have the ability to work off of one another to secure wins like those in other sports do. Instead, they have to come up with their own personal motivations to compete. Athletes have a slew of different reasons for coming back to the track day after day. Several Greenville track athletes took the time to share theirs.

Sophomore Bradley Stubbs said, “A desire to win, and to prove wrong people who have doubted me in the past, motivates me to run the best that I can and to place the highest that I can. Then, if I win, more people will pay attention to me and I can be a light for Christ to those people.” For Stubbs, competing is an outlet to prove himself to others, but he also understands that winning is not the most important thing to strive for. He wants any success he attains to allow him to be a role model for others. He hopes that when they examine other aspects of his life, they might see Christ in it.

Senior Jacob Burrell compared his track experiences with his cross country ones. “In cross country, I’m beholden to a team, and my success directly affects their success. In track, I’m the only one on the team that runs my event, so it becomes a point of personal pride. How hard can I push myself when I’m only doing it for me? It’s a struggle of whether or not I can live up to my own potential.” Burrell tests himself when he runs the 10,000 meters and seeks to make improvements over his previous times.

Other athletes see track as a useful routine. Freshman Noah Dir said, “It gives me an opportunity to decompress, and that translates into my whole life. I know I have to finish a race to the best of my ability and am encouraged to do so. I look at it in the same way as everything that I do — whether it be homework, classes, keeping positive relationships or my spiritual walk with Christ. I also just love giving it my best, staying fit, and having fun.” Running track and practicing to improve is a good way of building character traits that apply to other areas of life.

Some athletes also find that track provides a good social outlet. Sophomore Shirley Estes said, “What motivates me to run track is the relationships I make when I practice with my teammates. It’s a good way to socialize, and it also keeps me physically healthy.” Even though not all runners practice and compete together, track still functions as a place for students to get to know each other and spend time doing something other than schoolwork.

Senior Treyvon Manning had a lot to say about why he runs. He finds that the team aspect of track is important. “The team makes you want to compete harder because everybody else is competing hard. As they push and push, it drives you to do the same.” Hard work can be inspiring in any setting, and track is no exception. “I have my family back at home. I have my nieces and nephews, who are all coming of age. They can see their uncle compete in college, and they know that they can do the same or even better, since I had surgeries and missed seasons. Through me, they can learn that with hard work and dedication, anything can happen.” Manning seeks to be an example to his family in the same way that his teammates inspire him. The sport has meaning for him outside of competition, and that really shows. “Track is more than just running, and I guess you have to run and be a part of a team to understand that. Overall, it’s just a blessing to continue running, and that’s why I do it. You love it, and you’re just thankful to be able to do it. It’s about the opportunity and not taking it for granted.”

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