A few weeks ago one of my best friends from college was in town. He brought his wife and 1 year old son. As we reminisced about the “good ole days” we realized that it was 5 years ago that we first met as young, naive, and eager to please freshmen at Taylor University.
We arrived to a fairly quiet campus on a beautiful fall day at the end of August. The football team had already been practicing for several days (this included one of my roommates) and other teams were arriving as well. I remember being pretty nervous – more about being on the cross country team than anything else. I was a decent runner in high school, but nothing anywhere close to fast. I ran a 2:12 800 and never broke 5 in the mile or 10 in the 2 mile.
I definitely didn’t realize that the team I was joining was one of the best in Indiana and ranked in the top 25 nationally (in the NAIA). Had I known that I probably wouldn’t have joined and my life would be pretty different. Especially since I met my wife through a cross-country friend. While reading Once a Runner, I had so many thoughts come welling up in my mind and I could remember many of the weird/random things my teammates and I did in our 4 years together.
I truly have never experienced anything like the camraderie that came with slugging out 1000’s of miles together. Bearing through each other’s injuries, emotional low points, academic struggles, and other major life obstacles and celebrations. We were a team but we were also friends. It wasn’t all fun and games though. Get 15 competitive guys together and there will be issues, but those are easily forgotten on a 10 mile run. At least until someone decides to drop the hammer.
I could probably spend a lot of time sharing about my collegiate experiences and maybe I’ll try to throw some posts in every now and then. But I think one thing we all get from running is a great group of friends. Non-runners don’t understand the bonds forged out on the road, but there is something about it. Running stride for stride, sometimes talking about life, sometime staying on the surface about the weather or a recent meet, or sometimes just listening to the crunch of your feet. Yes, running builds great friendships throughout our life. I’m just glad that some of my best ones started in college and continue today.
This race served as the USATF-MN Cross Country Championships. As with collegiate championships this year it was a 10k. Fitting for the mid-November race, it was cold and snowy when I awoke. By the time we got to the race course, another golf course, the snow had stopped falling but the ground was very wet and soggy.
The course was 4 laps meandering around the golf course hitting a few good sized hills each time and rarely more than a couple hundred yards of flat terrain. Knowing the course would be hilly and wet I secured a new pair of cross country spikes. They did a good job for me. I didn’t slip and fall and I don’t really remember sliding at all while climbing the hills. The Nike Zoom Waffle XC 7 did an excellent job. With the waffle it is only a 4 spike bed. My toes hurt a little bit from jamming but I think that is due to the hills and I should have cut my toe nails!
Each lap was 2,500 meters long and the only distance marker on the course was the 1 mile mark. So if you wanted to do that math that’d be 1600 meters which means that each lap after passing it you had about 900 meters to get to the finish line. This was helpful on the last lap. I felt really good at the start and went out with a few guys from my team. We sorted around a little and ended up with a pack of 3 until about midway into the 3rd lap. At that point I started dropping back a bit. I tried not to let them gap me too much and we all finished within 20 seconds of each other. It was a little disheartening to see Chris pull off the course in front of me during the 3rd lap as I was starting to get tired, but I struggled on and it looks like he’ll be ok.
I didn’t have much of any kick at the end but the finish was also kind of uphill. The cold made it a miserable day. On the way home a bank thermometer said “32” so it was right around the freezing mark for the run. Most of us ran in long sleeves and shorts. Once you got moving your legs weren’t too cold, until you stepped in a puddle or something! There was no precipitation for our race, it was snowing/sleeting for the women’s 5k.
The course had 2 bad spots. One was over a 90 degree turn around a tree that was on the edge of the rough. The other was a hairpin turn around 500 meters to the finish. Both of these caused me to slow down a little, even though I tried running them a little wide.
I finished the race in 43:09 which is 6:57 pace. (That is faster than last week’s 6:59 pace for a shorter run!) I was 6th on our 3rd place team and 32nd out of 39 overall. The winning time was 33:23 by Christopher Erichsen of Collegeville TC. As I was coming around the hairpin turn on my 3rd lap I saw the gator in front of the leaders and vowed not to let myself get lapped. (I didn’t!) Our women’s team placed 4th in their 5k (which was 2 laps of the same course, run after our race).
[tags] USATF-MN, Cross Country, XC [/tags]