The 2016 Senior Perspectives is the 11th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.
For a complete listing of 2016 Senior Perspectives, click here.
Chris Allen, Men's Cross Country and Track & Field, Team Co-Captain
Hometown: Norfolk, Mass.
Concentration: Applied Mathematics
House Affiliation: Dunster
I’ve been a member of the Harvard varsity cross country and track and field teams for the last four years, and it’s been an incredible journey. The experiences I’ve had and the friendships I’ve made will stay with me for the rest of my life. From the excitement of competing at multiple championship races to the long, hard grind through the woods on an 18-mile run, I will never forget my time as a runner at Harvard.
Distance running demands you be all-in. It’s not a part-time sport. Every decision you make during the day is made with your running goals in mind. Student-athletes at Harvard often say that once they cross the bridge to the athletic facilities, they switch gears and focus their efforts on their sport while putting aside school, and vice versa. However, I have found that in order to succeed athletically in cross country and track and field, the choices I make on the academic side of the river are just as important. The skills required to succeed in the classroom are very comparable to the skills required to succeed on the track or on the cross country course: the drive to work hard, good time management, and the passion to believe in yourself along the way. Little things such as good nutrition and lots of sleep are often overlooked, but also essential. In my time at Harvard, I have learned that being a distance runner is truly a lifestyle.
Distance running has also taught me how to overcome failure. In my four years at Harvard, I often set a very high bar for myself, only to fall short, frustrated and disappointed. As my time as a varsity college athlete comes to a close, I have learned that learning how to deal with failure in the pursuit of success is an essential life skill. Harvard students are not used to failing – that’s why they ended up here in the first place. Realizing that you are no longer the best is a difficult challenge, both in academics and athletics. Whether getting beaten at the finish line, suffering from an injury, or struggling in a class despite hours of studying, I’ve learned that sometimes things don’t always go as planned. My time here has taught me, however, that when you get knocked down, the ability to pick yourself back up, make adjustments, and continue forward is essential for success. This was epitomized for me in the NCAA Northeast Regional meet during my senior cross country season. I was tripped and fell down in the first mile of the race, only to get back up and come from behind and have my best race ever in a Harvard singlet. That experience and lesson in perseverance probably best symbolizes my four years as an Ivy League student-athlete.
College is considered a time in life not just for academics, but also for personal growth. My experience as a student-athlete at Harvard challenged me to grow intellectually and athletically. I am a stronger person because I have been challenged both in the classroom and on the track. Every disappointment created an opportunity for growth. And every time running knocked me down, I found myself getting up and falling in love with the grind of the sport even more. Coach Saretsky talked often about how the focus should be on the process and not on the result. While I may not have always reached the destination I wanted to in my time running for Harvard, I can say that I have really enjoyed every step of the way.