Written Senior Perspectives: Emma Payne

Written Senior Perspectives: Emma Payne

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.

Emma Payne, Women's Cross Country and Track & Field
Hometown: Cambridge, Mass.
Concentration: Neurobiology
House Affiliation: Dunster

I’m not a talented runner. It’s not “in my genes,” I was solidly mediocre in high school, and in my first-ever 5k I was beaten by my younger sister (she still never lets me forget it). However, talent is just one small aspect of running. Talent is of little importance if you do not enjoy the hours spent at the track each day with your teammates: long-run Sundays, speed development, repeats on the cross country course or the track, and double days. Cross training, lift, and countless mechanics and strengthening routines. Rope stretching, rolling, massage, ice baths. Sleep, nutrition, working ahead on assignments, and making sacrifices.

As a freshman walk-on, I was just lucky that my then-coach Priscilla decided to look past my poor high school times, and instead put her faith behind my fiercely determined attitude and gave me a shot. I remember being scared on long-run days of getting lost on the trail once I lost contact with the pack (which inevitably happened), and showing up on workout days feeling utterly spent from keeping up with the others on the “easy” run the day before. While it would have been completely reasonable for me to bail at this point, my love for the sport and my team kept me going. I steadily improved each season, yet, for the first three years at least, not by enough to score for the team or earn much recognition.

During these years, I wasn’t running for the gratification of racing; if this were the case, my many last-place finishes would have discouraged me from the outset. In fact, my love of running has grown exponentially since coming to Harvard, and I’ve learned that I run because I love the process. I love coming to practice each day with my amazing teammates, pushing each other to new levels and holding each other accountable, and supporting each other through difficult stretches.

This year, my dedication has started to show in my races. I was thrilled to be Harvard’s fourth runner at Cross Country Heps, and have had big breakthroughs on the track as well. It’s been new and exciting, and this success has indeed caused me to love the sport even more. However, I haven’t forgotten that I run for the process. As I’ve been set back with several annoying muscle injuries during my final spring season, I once again had the opportunity to quit. To stop while I was ahead, maybe save a season of eligibility, and not embarrass myself by racing with very little fitness. But I’m familiar with coming in last place, and I know how to put my head down, grind out some repeats, and work back up. As I said, I’m not a talented runner.