After high school I found myself in college in Iowa where I ran cross country during my sophomore year. Runners in those days were still considered weird guys. On the surface it makes no sense to run but speaking from my present standpoint it makes perfect sense.
We had a small squad of about 7 or 8 runners and most of the time I was either number 7 or 8 but towards the end of the season I was inching up near number 6 and I might have had a chance to get the fifth slot if the season were longer or I had properly trained the previous summer.
One time the team piled into two cars for an away weekend meet at I forget where. It was far enough away that we had to overnight and I think we all piled into two motel rooms. I can only assume that the budget for the team was pretty small – this was the fall of 1968.
There was no women’s team as woman’s running was still far off in the future. Having a women’s team would have made life much more interesting especially to a 20 year old college sophomore.
Most of my recollection’s are sketchy but I recall that our captain was from Libertyville, Illinois. When the season ended so did my running for the year. No one ran for fun or to keep in shape. By now I was also aware that with my lack of speed that I was never going to be an outdoor miler in college so cross country fit me perfectly as an outlet.
The championship meet finished with what seemed like a quarter mile uphill slog to the finish line. I still have that program and the race results somewhere. One of these days I’ll make a concentrated effort to find them.
I remember seeing Simon and Garfunkel at an all girls catholic college across town. At the end of the second semester I left Iowa for good.
The running ” boom” still had not taken hold. But I do recall that while I was in high school I was enamored by Jim Ryun and his sub 4 minute mile as a high school runner. I always watched the US – USSR track meet on TV. It was an annual event and another name I remember from those days was Jim Beatty who was a miler and of course Billy Mills who won the 1964 Tokyo Olympics 10,000 meter race.
Some fifty plus years later I’m still running – ran a marathon ( #9) last fall. The dynamics of running for sport and recreation have all changed. I guess that I have always been drawn to running whether I knew it or not. It was always something I could do that not many other of my peers could do and it made me standout, made me feel special. Running taught me a lot about endurance, personal toughness and being able to hang and gut something out.
I’ve had minor injuries along the way but no surgeries on any moving parts despite the commonly held claim that I would ruin my knees. When I’m asked about my love of running I tell people that it’s in my genes. My people were runners in Poland and Ukraine. Running from Huns, Taters, Visigoths, Mongols, Vikings and everyone else who had a hand in carving up the steppes of eastern Europe.
To get back to the story – after my sophomore year I transferred to college in Connecticut.