Lessons learned from Penn Relays and the Broad Street Run

Lauren Kemp, Administrative Assistant for the Graduate Students team

This weekend marks the annual return of two of Philadelphia’s most celebrated athletic spectacles, the Penn Relays and the Broad Street Run.  Running makes a great metaphor for life, and with so many of you starting new jobs and careers after graduation, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from these races.  Here are just a few to push you through those first few miles.

Prepare for foul weather

Unfortunately, the forecast for this weekend calls for rain.  This could be a bummer for the unprepared runner, but seasoned veterans are always on the lookout for race day surprises.  Take a page out of their book: know that there will be times when you’ll be faced with stormy skies, and there will be bumps in the road ahead.  Not every day will be rainbows and sunshine, but that’s okay: plan for the obstacles, move on from them, and be grateful for the beautiful moments.

Establish your cheer squad

Many of you will be relocating across the country and possibly around the world.  Even if you’re going to a familiar city, you may be exposed to a new schedule, a new social circle and new responsibilities: it’s important to have your own cheer squad to turn to during these unfamiliar stretches.  Life can get busy, but make sure you maintain those connections to family and friends back home: there’s nothing better than knowing there’s somebody in your corner rooting for your success.

Enjoy the sights along the way

Although there will be many times when you have to sprint (hello, 100m dash and project deadlines), life itself is much closer to a marathon.  And let’s face it: 26.2 miles can get overwhelming if you’re only focused on the asphalt beneath you.  With all that distance to cover, make sure you take some time for you.  Stop and smell the roses (literally).  Visit a new restaurant with friends.  Read a book.  Work-life balance is a great thing to have: give yourself the chance to enjoy special moments outside the office or school.









Sleep is Golden

As a Penn student, you’re probably asking, “what is sleep?”  Sleep may be low on your to-do list, but it really deserves more consideration.  The world’s best athletes, including former Penn Relays participant and Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, make sleep a priority (Bolt himself aims for 8-10 hours of shuteye each night).  “Sleep is extremely important to me—I need to rest and recover in order for the training I do to be absorbed by my body,” Bolt says.  Studies prove that sleep makes us healthier and happier: carve quality time out with your pillow each night.  Your body and mind will thank you.

Find your rabbit…

In running, a rabbit is the athlete who establishes a quick, speedy (yet smart) pace.  Identify your rabbit– a mentor or role model, somebody who inspires you– and turn to her for advice.

…But Set Your Own Pace

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen newbie runners sprint over the starting line at road races, trying to keep even with the pack leaders, until they crash and burn.  It’s great to find inspiration in your peers, and it’s fabulous to chase goals, but don’t feel like you have to match your friends and colleagues step for step.  Constantly comparing yourself to others does you no favors.  Recognize your own values and limits, and stay true to you.


You Won’t Always Meet Your Goal

True story: I once ran Broad Street with full-fledged bronchitis (PLEASE do not follow my example).  I was so focused on beating a time goal that I didn’t take my health into consideration.  Spoiler: I finished the race, but I did so several minutes slower than I had hoped.  One year later, I tried again, and guess what?  I still came up short.  Yes, I was bummed, but I knew that there were other things to celebrate that day (No bronchitis?  Yay!  Free pretzels at the finish line?  Could my stomach be any more thrilled?).  So try not to stress too much if you don’t make that promotion or sign that new client: you will always have a chance to try again.  And maybe your goal will change: that’s okay too.  Your worth is not measured in trophies or medals.


Author: Lauren Kemp

Lauren Kemp is a Penn alumna and the current administrative assistant for the Graduate Student and Nursing/Education/Social Work teams in Career Services.