For Danielle Page, a Tufts junior and long-distance runner who has captured many wins for the Jumbos, running had not always been a thought in her mind, let alone a priority. That all changed with a commitment to her friend.
“My best friend was on the cross country team and she was really, really shy,” Page said. “The fifth grade was the first year that we were allowed to join school sports. She wanted to join the track team, but she didn’t want to do it by herself.”
“At this point, I was not sporty at all. I was much more into art and things like that, and I didn’t want to run,” Page said. “I said, ‘All right, fine … I’ll do it for you and I’ll do it with you.'”
Immediately, Page was set on a path that would eventually lead her to the Tufts cross country and track and field teams.
“The coach took one look at me the first day of practice and said, ‘Danielle you’re running distance,'” Page said. “It was my worst nightmare. But I stuck with it … fast forward 10 years, and here we are.”
Although running is an individual endeavor, this level of commitment to others has trickled into her time at Tufts. As a captain of the Tufts women’s cross country team, Page has a unique perspective on how the team aspect of the sport has helped both her and her teammates.
“I think the team aspect is really beneficial because even if someone isn’t necessarily contributing to the team, they can still have a really good day and get a [personal record]. I think it opens the door for a lot more participation,” Page said.
While today, Page plays a vital role in the cross country team’s success as one of the best runners on the team, she understands the value of the opportunity to participate because of what she went through early in her Tufts career.
Injured as a first-year, Page felt a level of uncertainty and fear about whether she would be able to continue competing at a high level. What she found at Tufts, however, was a welcoming program that allowed her to stay involved and feel like she was still contributing to a larger goal. It helped her see, in Page’s words, the “light at the end of the tunnel,” as she was recovering from the injury.
“I sort of started trusting in the program and trusting in my ability to train hard and come back off one year, just really ready. I would say trust was a big part of it and trusting the process. There’s been a lot of joy in that. So I trust joy.”
It’s a good thing that Page never wavered in her trust in joy because joy is all it has been for her in her Tufts career ever since the injury.
In just her first cross country race as a sophomore, after returning from a full year’s worth of injury, she took the Bates Invitational by storm, finishing first out of 87 with a time of 18:13.8. This time put her a full five seconds ahead of the second place finisher, marking a dominant performance over many veteran collegiate runners.
This impressive performance as well as others along the way propelled her to many accolades during the 2019 season. She was named NESCAC Cross Country Performer of the Week multiple times and ended the season with a NESCAC Women’s Cross Country All-Conference Award.
To finish off the 2019 season, Page led Tufts to a third place finish at the New England championship and an eighth place finish at the NCAA national championship. At the national championship, she came out with the best Tufts time in almost 20 years, finishing in 21:25.5 and also finishing first among the New England region runners.
Page carried over this same level of success into the 2020 track and field season, with just a few of her many accomplishments including running a first place 5K-meter race at the New England championship, as well as getting U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Region honors along with three other Jumbos at the end of the season.
In spite of all of this individual success, Page’s favorite parts about her career thus far have come from the camaraderie and friendships that she has built on the team. One of her most memorable moments was when she ran the Boston University Valentine Invitational this past spring. When she crossed the finish line, all of her teammates surrounded her.
“It was just a really special experience to be able to run off the track into the arms of all of my teammates,” Page said.
In the midst of all the competition uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Page hopes that one day in the near future she will be able to experience that special feeling again. She is working hard in order to make sure that she is prepared when the time comes.
“I’m using the lack of races as an opportunity to increase my training volume because we don’t have to be as rested for competition anymore,” Page said. “I am trying to have good workouts, and I think that’s really going to benefit when we are able to compete hopefully in the not-too-distant future.”
With a long-term dream of competing in the Olympic trials and a short-term goal of breaking the Tufts women’s 10K record, the work for Page does not stop, as she is determined to power through despite the pandemic.