Senior to Freshman: Elisabeth Danis, NH to Alabama

NHCC has asked Coe-Brown Alum, Elisabeth Danis to chronicle her transition to a major Division 1 College program.  It is our hope this series will provide some insight for aspiring NH collegiate runners to help prepare them from their own transition.  Thanks Liz and join us in wishing her good luck (You can do this directly with posting a comment below)!  

Sweet Home Alabama

IMG_0294If there is one thing everyone told me before I began my journey at the University of Alabama, it’s that going to college, and running in college “is an adjustment.” Obviously, it’s going to be different than running for Coe-Brown, where I successfully ran throughout my four years in high school. What I didn’t quite understand, before arriving over 1000 miles away from home, is just how different it is, and just how rewarding being a collegiate athlete could be.

Everyone is here for a reason. My team includes a girl with a 3k PR of 9:35, many school record holders, state champions, and one Pan Am 5k champion. To say it’s competitive would be an understatement. This was something obvious from our first few runs together. With 12 of the 25 girls on the team being freshmen, the “growing pains” are obvious. Girls can be intense, and when there are only seven spots available, everyone feels the pull to prove themselves quickly and efficiently.

Aside from new teammates and new coaches, there is a lot of new running to be done, too. I’ve never done a steady run before, but forty minutes into running at a deafening 6:20/mile pace, it’s definition became very clear to me. Tempos, although something I’m very familiar with, took on a whole new meaning when our first few mile splits were 5:55/5:54, thirty seconds faster than anything I’ve ever done or IMG_0278held. I had my first 200 workouts ever today, 13×200 ranging from thirty-six to thirty-four seconds. Instead of being in the front, like I often was at Coe-Brown, I’ve been more middle-of-the-pack.  This presents another adjustment to get used to, but a great one because it has given me the opportunity to chase.

One of the main things that drew me to Alabama is that, workouts aside, many of the runs are on trails similar to those back home. The soft ground and familiar pace has had a grounding effect on me, giving me something comfortable to reach for in a world of new. Another incredible thing here is the attentiveness of the trainers and staff. Ice baths, chiropractic, help stretching our muscles, protein smoothies and Gatorade are all available immediately following a hard session. Smoothies are something I look forward to daily. Oh, and the gear. It’s wicked awesome.

At Coe-Brown, we didn’t have a football team. Here, football is religion. While I have not attended a game yet (there haven’t been any), I definitely will be. Tuscaloosa becomes one of the largest cities in Alabama on game days, attracting close to half a million fans. The freshmen athletes, had dinner football stadium the other night, eating as we overlooked the field and empty IMG_0270stands. We met other athletes, ranging from people on the rowing team to those playing golf, swimming, or soccer. A lot of the time we’ve spent here these first few weeks is focused on connecting and socializing with other athletes, and eating really good food.

Everything is new right now. I’m running new (and faster) times in workouts I’ve never run before. I’m exploring new places and new classes. I have new teammates and new coaches. New can be good. New gives me a different perspective, something I really want out of my college experience. Just being in the South is completely different from New Hampshire (biscuits are now my favorite food). Packing up and moving south is a big change, and I’m lucky to continue to have the support of my family and coaches at home in whatever I do. I can’t wait to continue to share my experiences with those back home in New Hampshire because it’s going to be an incredible journey.

On an added note, here’s a video of Bryant-Denny Stadium (where I had dinner the other night at a freshman-athlete mixer) and of the track and field complex.




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