Running Smart

One of the holdovers from working in the Ivy League office for eight years is the scrutiny of annual announcement of the recipients of the Rhodes Scholarship. There are always a herd of Leaguers on the list, but finding out if they are athletes isn’t quite as easy.

So I was pleased to learn that Yale senior Helen Jack was on the list as she was a former captain of the school’s club road running team. So I figured I’d reach out in hopes of uncovering her story.

The Hanover, N.H., native has quite a story to tell. As a high schooler in the land of the Big Green, she was a cross country skier, not a track and field runner. Jack didn’t entertain the idea of competing intercollegiately in any sport at Yale not just because she didn’t have the background, but because the demands were simply too much for her to fulfill her other goals.

But she loved to run when she wasn’t serving Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, the New Haven Syringe Exchange or the Earth Institute’s Millenium Cities Initiative in Ghana. Or compiling a massive grade-point average.

But not long before her sophomore year, on a run, she was hit by a car and suffered a multitude of broken bones. She spent a full week in the hospital and returned to Yale in a wheelchair.

But she turned her frustration into motivation. “I did every single thing I was supposed to do in the rehabilitation because just being able to run again was all the motivation I required.”

How motivated? She was back in the woods and produced a new 5k PR before the next year ended.

“I run more for me. It is my way to relax and de-stress. There is really nothing more relaxing than running on hills through the woods. It’s the thing that keeps me sane.”

Along with her studies in molecular, cellular and developmental biology and in international studies. It will all serve her well as she pursues her next degree in evidence-based social intervention at Oxford.

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