Personal Essay: A Cross-Country Story

Four years ago, I was looking for something to do when soccer took a break in the spring. This time of year always bored me because I was eager to be active in one way or another. The father of one of my friends saw an ad in the paper for a youth running club in Lewistown. He showed me because he knew I had always done well in Walker Elementary school’s “Track and Field Day.”

What began as a meager three days a week of carpooling to Mifflin County has developed into a lifestyle over these last four years. What pulled me in was the success I had my first year of track. I placed sixth at the National meet in the 1500 meter in the 11-12 age group, and I kind of grew obsessed with running after that. When you’re a distance runner in track, you pretty much have to run cross-country. Because soccer was also in the fall, I was faced with a choice; in the end I went with the sport I had more talent in, and I have run cross-country ever since.

During an average week, I run anywhere from 25 miles to 35 miles. This may seem like a lot to you, but it is less than average. Olympian Galen Rupp runs 150 miles a week! Although running seems like a simple process, it is very complicated to get in good running shape. You can’t just go outside and run until you're tired like many people think. The body is like a machine, and you must fine-tune each part to get optimum results. During a week, I do many different types of workouts. This is one week at random from my running log:

Monday: 4 mile tempo run in Juniata (tempo means about 90% effort)
Tuesday: 7 mile long run at an easy pace in Lewistown 
Wednesday: 3 easy miles on the treadmill 
Thursday: 2x2 mile repeats on MCHS track with a 4 minute recovery in between them. The first one was 11:35, and the second one was 11:03.
Friday: 3 easy miles on the treadmill to recover from Thursday. 
Saturday: 3x800 repeats on track with 3 minute recovery: 2:14, 2:17, 2:17. 4x200 repeats averaging 30 seconds.
Sunday: Day off (Sunday is normally my only day off during the week).

All of this added up to 29.5 miles. Some of these workouts were very long and slow, while others were short and quick. This contrast of speed and distance is the key to getting in running shape.    

This fall my coach, Jeff Miller, and I were not sure if I would be able to compete on a high school level due to my individuality with Juniata. As it turns out, it is rather easy to register as an independent runner; it actually comes with some perks. I can pick and choose what meets I want to participate in, ride to meets reclined comfortably in my own car, and even design my own uniform! 

Since my coach is from Mifflin County and has connections with their cross-country coach, I am able to practice with their team. I have made a lot of friends from Mifflin County because I run with them about three days a week. This cross-country season was a very successful and fun one. Here’s a video from one of my races this year. I am looking forward to running for the Juniata name again next year!

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