Story by Sofy Herrera ’18
A typical week of cross country (XC) consists of a series of workouts designed to strengthen a runner’s ability to endure the meet at the end of the week. For example:
• Monday: timed four miles
• Tuesday: a 45-minute free run (designated time to run anywhere near Marian)
• Wednesday: timed sprint loops (0.62 miles per loop)
• Thursday: a glorified 30-minute free run
• Friday: race day (3.1 miles)
All of these workouts are preceded and followed by stretching and warm-up, warm-down loops. Depending on the day of the meet, the schedule may change, but the distance and intensity of the week remains.
While participating in these strenuous activities, runners are encouraged to hydrate, eat right and get enough sleep. However, the key to racing may just be in the coaching. The ordinary coach supports their athletes, trains them and sets them up for success. It takes a lot of charisma to get the team of 79 runners to be simultaneously pumped up and relaxed enough to run a good race or finish a hard workout.
Megan Han ’13 is not your average coach. She is the newest addition to the cross country coaching squad consisting of former math teacher Roger Wright (head coach), theology teacher Greg Golka and English teacher Alee Taylor Cotton ’05.
It is clear that Han has had a lasting effect on her runners. “My favorite thing she’s said to me is you’re always halfway there, as in you can always do more,” said freshman Eva Watson.
“I like how when she cheers me on, it’s in a positive way like ‘it is just Soph lot’ or ‘you’re living the dream!’” sophomore Kelly Williams said.
Not only does Han possess all of the basic coaching characteristics, she runs with her athletes on free runs and bonds with the team throughout the season by sharing stories and advice from her XC days.
“I love cross country more than anything else…ever,” Han said. Aside from teaching and coaching, Han runs four miles a day, some days eight, one time 13. “I just love being able to get rid of stress by doing something productive,” Han said. Her love for running is contagious, spreading to her athletes and enabling them to never give up, regardless of the outcome of their race.
Although Han misses the competition of the races and the glory of sprinting to the finish, being a coach has been even more rewarding. “I like being able to be around the runners and being able to help them get through races and become better runners,” Han said.
Having gone to state as a freshman and being a member of the team all four years of her high school career, Han is familiar with the workouts and all the struggles they entail. The beloved 60-minute free run -no walking- was her favorite. She continues to run it today, while on the lookout for “walkers” (the brave souls who dare to walk during the free run time) with Mrs. Cotton.
With her best mile time being 5:55, and her best 5k (3.1 mile) being 21:40, Han knows the commitment and mental strength it takes to keep going in order to be successful. Although she did not run in college, she still ran during her time in college for fun and even competed in a half marathon with a time of 1 hour and 50 minutes. The draw of competition against yourself is something Han loves about running. “Yesterday I timed a mile for fun,” Han said. That may seem like a normal thing for runners to do, however Han ran it in the striking time of 6:11.
Her commitment has inspired the girls to give every race their all. Senior Kylie Champion describes how Han continues to energize her with her advice. “Every time I’m running a race, I hear Miss Han’s voice in my head screaming ‘THERE’S NO REASON FOR THAT GAP! CLOSE IT!’ Best advice anyone has ever given me,” Champion said.
Along with XC being a physically exerting sport, it is equally as exhausting mentally. Han’s priceless advice and commitment to the sport throughout her life has enabled her to coach her athletes not only to run fast, but not to be afraid to run fast.