Column: Repetition


Most people don’t realize that there is a difference between cross-country and track. It can be confusing: both are running sports, and both require dedication. But to the athlete participating in these two, they are very different. Cross-country is about endurance; track is about repetition.

One of my coach’s favorite track workouts is the 400-meter repeat. This involves running as fast as possible once around the track, taking a short break, then repeating this exercise eight to ten times. We usually do this workout about once a week, or a variation on it such as 1000-meter repeats or 1600-meter repeats. The main idea behind all of these is repetition.

Even races during the track season are repetitious. One of the more popular long-distance events is the 5K. On an average track, this race is 12.5 laps, which, for me, takes about 21 to 22 minutes. That’s 21 minutes of running literally in circles.

At the beginning of the semester, coming off Christmas break, I was ready for track and excited to race. The sheer repetition required to improve, however, is draining. Meeting every day at 4 p.m. to complete workouts we’ve done many times before can be depressing. Improvement comes slowly over weeks of hard work.

Luckily for our team, Coach Bright knows exactly what we’re going through. As a former 10K track runner, he understands the hamster-like feeling of running on a track. During my 5K race, he stood on the edge of the track, and all 12 times I came by, encouraged me to stay strong, to catch the girl in front of me, to keep my head up and keep going.

At this point in the semester, with only a few weeks before finals, the encouragement to keep going applies to all aspects of life. College can be repetitious: a quiz every class period in En103, room check every day or eating a bagel every day for breakfast.

The much-used phrase, “the daily grind,” is very real to the college student. Sometimes each day can seem like a mere repeat of the day before. Under circumstances like this, letting homework or devotions slide is all too easy. But just like running, if there is going to be any improvement or growth, the hard, monotonous tasks must be done.

Immediate progress is hard to see, but in the end, the effort is well worth it. For track, if I only compare today’s result with what I did yesterday, there seems to be no difference. Looking back to the beginning of the semester, however, I realize I have cut minutes off of my time.

The same principle works with academics, work or spiritual growth. Only comparing immediate results can be depressing, but if you go all the way back to where you began, so much progress can be seen. God has commanded us to run our race patiently, and the word “patiently” is vital. Life can become a day-to-day struggle with the same, tedious tasks. We must depend upon God to send us the patience necessary to contend successfully.