By CLAIRE TOBIN
There is a niche for people who crave endorphin-, vomit-, and asthma-inducing sports. This niche is for those who love to push their body to its farthest limit. These athletes are widely misunderstood for loving something that other sports think of as masochistic punishment. In cross country, runners collapse in agony only to pick themselves up off the grass minutes later with a smile, craving more.
Almost every weekend during the first two blocks, Colorado College cross country runners travel upwards of nine hours to compete. These athletes willingly give up their weekends and a Block Break to race. Compared to many other sports, cross country lacks spectators, but this does not faze the athletes. They are there to beat their own records, vie for a place against the other teams, and push teammates to faster times.
Patty Atkinson, a senior Psychology major and the cross country captain, has been with CC cross country since her freshman year. Despite the constant hard work, long travel days, and brutal mental and physical pain that come from running, Atkinson’s love for the team and the competition have kept her focused for the past four years.
One of Atkinson’s fondest memories of competing in college was her freshman year race at Fort Hayes, where she shattered her personal record. “It helped me gain confidence going into the regionals meet. And being top seven on the team as a freshman was awesome,” she said. Atkinson worked hard to complete an outstanding freshman season and was awarded Rookie of the Year.
At CC, Atkinson has an ambitious schedule: she balances teaching yoga, full-time athletics, academics, and volunteering. “I’m really involved in the Best Buddies program at school because I have a brother with special needs,” said Atkinson. “I was also involved with Best Buddies in high school.”
On top of volunteer work, another passion of hers is to own the dance floor. Atkinson can often be seen busting out some serious moves. According to her teammates, Atkinson is one of the more inspiring dancers they have seen. Her love of dancing and grace on the dance floor is energizing, and it’s clear that Atkinson loves to have her adrenaline racing.
Along with the endorphin rush that accompanies running and dancing, Atkinson has enjoyed skydiving, snowboarding, bungee jumping, and Scuba diving. “Going to Africa, seeing the wildlife there, and hiking the Appalachian Trail are still on my bucket list,” she said. There is nothing she is too scared to try.
Atkinson sees a silver lining both when it comes to running and throughout her life. She remains inspiringly optimistic no matter the circumstance. She also possesses the patience and big picture thinking needed for distance running. “If you stay positive and trust your training, everything is going to be OK,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson prepares herself for each competition by eating oatmeal with peanut butter and banana, which has become a pre-race ritual. This is essential for the barriers runners need to overcome during a race. “I don’t think there’s any other sport where you collapse at the finish line. Cross country really tests your limits,” Atkinson said. “It is a total mental and physical game, which is what makes it so hard.”
Mental fortitude can be the difference between a personal record or a terrible race when it comes to cross country. Atkinson stresses that during a race, it is important to stay positive and dig deeply for motivation. “I’ve seen a lot of girls get into their heads about racing,” Atkinson said. “I want people to take it seriously but also find the fun and love in running.” Atkinson is looking forward to the upcoming race at Fort Hayes next weekend. This course is notoriously fast, and she is excited to see if her oatmeal ritual will carry her to victory.