Sports have a lot more to offer than just the winning of a game, but they can help foster relationships that will continue after your last race. 

Riley Burns clung to the relational aspect of track, rather than its competitiveness. Burns is a junior and engineering major on the Azusa Pacific University track team. Creating bonds with his teammates is what cultivated a deeper love for the game. “The people in the sport will make you stay more than the actual sport,” he said.

As a kid, he didn’t see running as a real sport, and track was more of something he stumbled upon. The reason Burns got into running was because he needed a ride home from school. He was in sixth grade at the time, and racing kept him occupied until his ride showed up. 

However, in high school, he started to enjoy the sport because his friends found excitement in track. Burns began to realize that the sport encompassed a lot of what he already liked to do. He didn’t favor racing for the sake of the competition, but he genuinely loves to run. 

The neat thing about track is that people can race in different countries. You don’t have to be confined to one place or environment to participate in the game. Burns said, “Track is like exploring because you can go anywhere in the world and run.” This allows him to meet diverse groups of people. He commented on how he has a friend from Kenya and a roommate from France. Track introduced him to unique people, and he was able to build connections with them. 

Additionally, COVID-19 cultivated circumstances that were lonely and isolating. Yet, Burns found a sense of belonging and community on his track team. Some of his core friends are the ones he races with because he spends the most time with them. He was able to find new hobbies or curiosities through the friends he made. “In track, I was able to meet a lot of new people, and they would show me other things that I was interested in,” he explained.

The sport enables him to run and travel in new places, and Burns reminisces about a time that they raced in Billings, Montana. It was -5 degrees out, and snow was falling during the meet. People were slipping and sliding all over the ground, and it was a memorable experience for him. The runner is fond of the experiences that are created and shared through the sport. 

His friend Noah in high school played an impactful role in Burns’ track journey. In order to hang out with Noah during practice, he had to run with him. His friend encouraged the athlete to continue racing because he spotted potential in his fellow teammate. 

Burns understands that track means more to him than just winning games, but it’s about the relationships you build, and the desire to run for the sake of running.  

“I genuinely enjoy running, and it’s not about the competitive aspect of the sport,” he said.