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The Start Of My Post-Collegiate Running Journey

One month after her last race as a collegiate athlete, Hannah Hartzell is curious to see where her passion for running will take her next.

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I’ve saved the race bibs from every collegiate race I’ve ever run. They’re hanging above my window, inscribed on the back with the date, time and lessons learned. It’s not a grand collection, a testament to the injuries and illness I’ve endured. But maybe that’s why I value it so highly. Each one of those bibs represents my determination and dedication. Each one is jam-packed with memories.

The most recent race bib, dated February 23 of this year, still sits on my desk. It’s too fresh to earn a spot on the wall; it’s too important to file away. So it sits there, my last race bib as a Butler University athlete. The end of an era.

Don’t mistake my nostalgia for despair. I’m quite enjoying my newly-minted status as a competitive but unaffiliated runner. Yes, I was quite concerned about the transition at first. For the past 10 years, I’ve had a coach to guide and encourage my running. Stepping out of that was scary.

I needed to figure out what I wanted to do next. That’s why, after my last collegiate race, I decided to take a week to just be me. I would run however long and however fast I wanted, nothing more and nothing less. My coach—which by default, is now me—wholeheartedly agreed with the plan. So I spent a week recharging and thinking about the future.

Six days and 50 miles later, I had a clear head and a game plan. First, I realized that my passion for running is stronger right now than it’s ever been. While I’m not exactly sure what training will look like, I know that I want to continue developing my talent in a healthy and fun way. With that realization, post-collegiate running doesn’t seem so scary.

I run before the sunrise most days, fastening a blinking light to my shirt and making a beeline for the roads with streetlights. Most mornings, I only get a half-mile in before I have to suck in my breathe and exhale a prayer of gratitude. Running is just so darn fun! I won’t lie: there is a lot of pressure associated with collegiate running. I had an incredible experience, but I would be dishonest if I said there’s no pressure. Now, as I run along under the stars, I feel a sense of relief. I know that if I hit a recovery run too hard or I eat something weird the night before a long run, it’s totally fine. I can adapt. If I go venturing into a new neighborhood and get lost, it’s fine. I can adapt. I don’t have a team anymore, and in some ways that is daunting. But in other ways, it’s liberating.

I am excited to see how this new stage of my running career both challenges and strengthens me. The next goal on the horizon is a half marathon in May. After that, who knows! But I’m listening to my new coach, and I’m sure she’ll have it figured out by then.

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