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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

At Florida State University (FSU), there are many ways for students to get involved on campus; such options include sports teams like the Cross Country and Track & Field teams. Having run Cross Country and Track & Field in the past, I understand that running is an intense yet simultaneously gratifying sport, both physically and mentally. To further discuss the complexity of the sport, I sat down this week with Rachel Johnson, a competitive runner for FSU’s Cross Country and Track & Field teams, respectively.

Her Campus (HC): Before I ask more specific questions, tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been running and how did you qualify to be a Division 1 college athlete?

Rachel Johnson (RJ): I started running in my junior year of high school, for about four years now. Coming into college, I knew that I wanted to continue running since I hadn’t run for very long. Since FSU is very accepting of walk-ons, I was able to show up and try out. It was a really good opportunity for me considering that it’s such a big team and there are a wide range of times that athletes can run. There is always going to be somebody to train and run with since the team is so big. However, college classes are harder, and running is more serious in college than it is in high school.

HC: There does seem to be a lot to balance for college athletes. What do you enjoy the most about being a runner?

RJ: Running is something that you can do wherever you go, so you don’t need to specifically have trails, but the trails in Tallahassee make it that much more enjoyable. I also love the people that I run with. The team is so big that I can run with a different person every day of the week, and I meet so many people through running, which makes it a fun way to stay active. It’s definitely competitive, but you have to enjoy it to compete and get through all of the hard workouts.

HC: You mentioned that running is something that can be done anywhere. How has this unique aspect of the sport helped you through the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020?

RJ: The pandemic caused me to lose a full track season; the team got separated and we all had to train on our own. This was unfortunate since we all got sent home, which made it hard to run with others, but it was awesome to see that everyone was more active during the pandemic. There wasn’t much else to do outside of training since we had to isolate. Being able to run outdoors made the activity COVID-safe, and we could still do what we love. It gave me time to focus more on my running.

HC: Are there any elements of running as a sport, whether it be track or cross country, that you feel like are not talked about enough?

RJ: What I personally didn’t realize before running in college was the importance of the mental side of running. You can go out for an easy run wherever you are but having to do it every single day and finding the motivation to get up early for it is difficult. You also find yourself in difficult situations, like workouts and races where you must stay focused all the time; it’s very repetitive. There are definitely days where you wake up and think, “I have to go do a work out now, I just want to sleep!” That mental aspect of running wasn’t something I thought about as much before things got serious in college.

HC: Since running is such a mental endeavor, how do you compare those mental elements of running to the physical? How do you feel that these elements affect each other?

RJ: When you go into these workouts, you are putting a lot of strain on your body through all the mileage, which is always going to be hard. But the mental side comes along with it. When you’re in workouts, a lot of the time you’re pushing yourself beyond a point that your body is used to, and in your mind you’re saying, “I’m tired,” or “I want to slow down, why do I have to keep going?” You must try to find that balance where you can push yourself physically and know in your mind that it’s not too much.  

HC: What is the most important lesson that you have learned that you would like other runners to take away from this?

RJ: The most important thing that I have learned is that as a runner, there are going to be times where you may lose motivation and even start to enjoy it less. As long as you can push through the moments where you’re less motivated, you will always come back to loving the sport. There are rough patches, but running is a constant thing so there are always going to be ups and downs. You just have to trust the process, be patient and know that if you are going through a rough patch, as long as you push through there will always be something good that comes out of it.

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FSU student majoring in Public Relations with minors in Spanish and Humanities! I'm passionate about writing, running, music, and movies, and can be found making niche pop culture references or overanalyzing random pieces of media.