Friday, January 15, 2010

The 300-mile club and how my perception of running has changed over time

Admittedly, I didn't think much of cross country runners when I was in high school.

I was a football player, and as a football player, I avoided long-distance running like the plague. The farthest we had to run at a time was 100 yards in practice, and we liked it that way. We figured anyone could run, but it took a real man to put on shoulder pads and lay a hit on someone.

The cross country team at my high school had an incentive program over the summer called the "300-mile club," which was exactly what it sounded like. Runners would have the summer months to try and log 300 miles of running before the fall season began, with those who reached the mark being honored by the coaching staff during the season.

I didn't think much of the 300 club at the time. My time in those summers was divided between hanging out with friends and weightlifting with the football team. The only thing the 300 club meant to us football folk was that the cross country runners would be out on the running trail all summer rather than taking up space in the weight room.

Why would we ever go running for fun? Would that help our numbers go up in bench press and squats? Would the football coach guarantee us a spot in the starting lineup if we ran a 5k everyday? Doubtful.

Fast-forward to the present day, and I no longer look at 300-mile club as a useless number in a sport I could care less about. Instead, I see it as a viable benchmark to shoot for when training for a goal as lofty as running a marathon. Running has gone from being a pointless afterthought for me to a blossoming, albeit painful, hobby.

I decided to take this trip down high school memory lane because after my 8-mile jaunt on Friday, I officially pushed my training total up over the 300-mile mark, sitting at 307 miles after 12 weeks. It's nothing special mile-wise compared to some of the more diligent runners out there. But for a guy who used to not be able to run a mile without his asthma kicking in, it's not exactly chopped liver.

It's also a little late for me to be included in the 300-mile club for dedicated Sartell High School cross country runners. My 5-year high school reunion has come and gone and I'm fairly certain that the cross country coach at Sartell wouldn't recognize me unless it was in the context of the broom ball we used to play in his gym class.

However, given the way I used to feel about cross country runners and long-distance running in general, I feel it merits mentioning how much my perception of running has changed over time.

I have a newfound respect for cross country runners and an admiration for what they have to put their bodies through to get ready for races. Runners fight through soreness, fatigue and outright pain to reach their weekly mile totals. It may never draw the crowd that football draws, but long distance running is a sport that requires hard work, toughness and dedication in its own right.

And with 21 weeks to go until Grandma's Marathon, here's to hoping that the 300-mile mark is just the first of many mileage milestones I'll be passing in the next few months.

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