Running inspired: Erin Finn makes history
Last week, Erin Finn made history at the Simmons-Harvey Quad.
After running an astounding 8:58.69 in the 3,000-meter, the fifth-year senior broke her own school record. After an injury-shortened 2017 season, the performance served as an emphatic announcement that Finn is back.
Finn is no stranger to injury. A recurring stress fracture in her foot had kept her from competing in her career’s biggest moments, devastating the promising athlete. Her first fracture came during her sophomore season where her absence detracted from an elite cross country team.
The injury bug then reared its ugly head again prior to her junior season, causing more devastating effects. Finn was robbed of a chance to compete at both the collegiate and Olympic levels and was forced to helplessly watch from the sidelines.
In her fifth and final season, Finn looks to make a lasting statement and craft a legacy that grows larger than her injuries. Now, in only the second meet of that campaign, she has set a school record.
“It felt like I was completing something,” Finn said. “I felt the joy of finally just completing something that I’ve been working towards. It’s been almost two years since I’ve PR’d in any of my distance events. I PR’d in the mile last year, but that’s not really one of my true events.”
This season will also be a significant one for Finn as she has spent her latest recovery period discovering what her life looks like outside of running. She ventured beyond the sole identity of being a runner and found new purpose in her running.
“I don’t run because I have to. I run because I love it,” Finn said. “My junior year I was setting unhealthy expectations for myself, so my performance wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be.
“That indoor season, and that outdoor season, I ended up getting hurt, so it was just a long road of getting healthy and then finally competing with joy. Competing free of having to do things but rather getting to do things.”
Finding the joy in running was not an easy task. After going through a lot of soul searching — and a campus ministry program called Athletes in Action — she finally feels ready to unlock her full potential on the track.
“Also, my faith is really important to me,” Finn said, “And I just know that I’ve been given gifts, and I want to use them with joy and not use them with fear.”
While pinning an athlete’s identity to an insatiable desire to compete and a relentless aggression may seem desirable, Finn has found both to be unhealthy, taking away from her ability to compete.
“Part of it was realizing that what I was doing last year wasn’t working,” Finn said. “Why would I impose these rules and miserable things on myself when I’m doing something I love?”
Finn is looking forward to contending in the future with a renewed sense of purpose, but sat out this past weekend as a group of less experienced runners took to the track at Saginaw Valley State’s Jet’s Pizza Invitational.
Those runners are where Finn was many years ago — striving to make names for themselves.
Now Finn is somewhere completely different. She is a four-time NCAA Championship runner up and has never been able to climb that final hill. The hope is now — with a redefined reason for performing — she finally can.