Competition and Inspiration: Environmental Effects of Nantucket and Beyond

When I was a freshman in high school, my father and I attended the Cumberland Valley High School Track and Field banquet. It was an annual event to celebrate the end of another track season by looking back on the season, recognizing great contributors to the team and providing the coaches an opportunity to send off seniors and talk about plans for the future.

My freshman year, I was far from good. I barely made the team that traveled to away meets (they only took the top 5 for each event).  I only ran track that season because soccer hadn’t worked out in the fall and my parents wanted me to try another sport.  It helped that my father ran track when he was in college, which made me think I’d automatically be good at it. I was wrong.

It was a good enough season for a freshman as I enjoyed personal victories fending off challenges for that last spot for away meets and taking 25 seconds off my time (2:40 to 2:15).  However, in the grand scheme of things, no one but my parents and I noticed these “victories.”

At the banquet, our coach reflected on the conference championship we had won and the top athletes on the team that were returning the following year.  I watched from my seat as I felt envy for the high regard the top runners were given. I realized that for all the accomplishments I thought I’d had that season, they were really empty; I hadn’t scored a single point for the team and wasn’t even on the coaches radar as an “up and coming” runner.

As I was leaving the banquet, my long distance coach asked me if I would run cross country in the fall. He told me it would help make me a better runner for the next track season.  I agreed.

As I got in the car with my father to head home, I told him I was going to train all summer and do whatever it took to make varsity for Cross Country.  My father was supportive, but reminded that varsity meant one of the top 7 runners at the school. I had just finished a season where I was barely the 7th best runner on the team in one of a dozen different race lengths.

That summer, I ran over 620 miles in 3 months.  I built up to running 10 miles a day. Every day, my father would wake me up when he went to work and I would run 7.5 miles. An hour after dinner at night, I’d run 2.5 miles more.  During those 3 months, my mile pace went from 8:30 per mile for the 7.5 mile run down to 6:30 per mile for the 7.5 mile run.

To everyone’s surprise, I showed up in great shape at the start of the season and made the last varsity spot.  The hard work had paid off and now I was mentioned as an “up and coming” runner and had the respect of my peers. From there the work was just beginning, but I had made the leap necessary to work alongside the top athletes and take the steps necessary to eventually captain the Cross Country team my senior year.

Going to the Nantucket Conference last weekend felt like the Track and Field Banquet all over again.  Greenhorn Connect got me in the door, but it felt similar to just making the away squad to run the 800 meters; I’m as much a rookie (if not more so) as the other sponsored young entrepreneurs that attended.

Sitting here at the genesis stage of my next startup, I can’t help but feel the pressure to do something big and find a way to raise my game to hopefully work to one day be an equal of the more distinguished Nantucket attendees.  I have every intention of working just as hard on my next venture as I did that summer to make the varsity cross country team.