How Running Keeps My Feet on the Ground 

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

By: Bronwyn Patterson, 2021 Female Winner of the Amy Schuerholz Metz and Charm City Run Scholarship presented by Saucony

I hear it through the bathroom door: “Event 582 Final Call, event 582 Final Call. Please make your way to the paddock.” The official’s voice is muffled but unmistakable, and those two words-final call– are a sign to every track athlete that this is the moment. Those words mean go time. I straighten my singlet, making sure the “PENN” I wear emblazoned on my chest is loud and clear. I set my shoulders and take a deep breath and step out of Weightman Hall with my relay team to the roar of the 36,000 deep crowd at the 126th annual Penn Relays. 

I have changed a lot as a runner since I started in 2017, my freshman year of high school. I tried out for cross country at South River High School as a means to staying in shape for the upcoming spring lacrosse season. My goal was simply to have fun and hang with the upperclassmen in workouts as best I could. I found that running came naturally to me- not only that, but I enjoyed it, something I know everyone at Charm City can relate to (most days!). Running was simple, and our enthusiastic high school coaches made it fun too. I had lacrosse posters all over the walls in my room at home, but the joy of running was starting to grab hold. My only goal was to stay as close as possible to the talented racers ahead of me, our feet pounding the well-worn cross country trails and then the wonderful mondo track of the PG Sports Complex indoor track. I played lacrosse that spring, entering tryouts in the best shape of my life, and we had a great year. Our lacrosse practice field was ringed by the track, and I am not going to lie, I watched my track friends running with not a small amount of envy. 

Consistent training helped my times start to drop my sophomore year. I made the choice to leave lacrosse for full-time track, and while this decision was fully the right one for me, it did change my relationship with running. As my times dropped, the idea of running in college started becoming a possibility, and with that goal came a new competitive edge to the sport. Racing is hard: it carries pressure and it generates expectations. I wanted to make my coaches happy, my teammates happy, and myself happy. As my former teammates on the lacrosse field practiced to defend their state championship, I got down to the serious business of training for outdoor track. An injury kept me off of the track for the championship portion of that outdoor season, as well as cross country the next fall. I was so excited to get back to running with the indoor season in 2019 after a long recovery period. And, then, as we started to gear up for what I hoped would be my first full outdoor season, the pandemic shut everything down. 

Runners everywhere figured out how to get outside and run during those lockdown months. I missed my coaches and teammates at South River terribly, but the forced time away from a team setting meaningfully shifted my perspective. I learned to love the grind. The solo miles, reps, and time trials gave me the space to notice the beauty of the sport and embrace the pain of pushing yourself- it was just me against me, and that freedom helped me rediscover why I ran. When I was offered the chance to rep the stripes of the University of Pennsylvania, I gladly accepted.

Running has proven to be a literal and figurative grounding force throughout my first year of college. Coming out of quarantine bubbles–virtual classes, limited in-person social interaction for extended periods of time–only added to the regular challenges of freshman year. Balancing the exacting demands of college academics and the new, much larger social sphere while being expected to train 3-4 hours a day and perform at a level higher than ever exhausted me. Yet ultimately it was the time training and preparing for practices and races that kept me from being overwhelmed. Eating right and getting enough sleep to practice and race well are necessary habits for not only track, but for college in general. Once I really figured that out, it was easier to feel more in control of every aspect of collegiate life. 

As hard as the first few months of this fall were, running was that foundation that I fell back on for structure, confidence, and eventually inspiration to grow. Even on the hardest days academically, practice has been an outlet for me – the burn in my lungs during tempo runs or the lactic acid seizing my legs as we blaze around “Club Frank” is a way to leave the stress of school behind and just run. To be sure, there have been days where the last thing I want to do is step away from the precious time I have to study and do a distance run, but every time without fail I feel happier and more refreshed after the workout. I suspect that this will be true even long after my days of college running are over. (You will definitely see me joining the Charm City training groups, and signing up for every 5K I can). 

Running has given me the perspective I need to enjoy even the hardest of academic days. In a large way, the Amy Schuerholz Metz scholarship has allowed me to be able to focus on the core aspects of the sport and academics. I know that if I had to balance practice, school, and a work study job, enjoying my freshman year would have been very difficult, if not impossible, and I am beyond grateful for the space and time this scholarship has provided. 

I walked onto Franklin Field last weekend with pride, excitement, and calm confidence in my heart, because I knew that my training had prepared me to weather any obstacle in my path. I trusted myself and teammates to do exactly what our coach told us to do: have fun chasing our potential. By keeping this goal at the forefront of my mind, I have learned to embrace every beautiful moment of success and struggle this past year, and I look forward to pushing my own limits in running and beyond.


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

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