I am not elite. Hopefully you would have understood that from this post title, but one can never be too sure. So why am I writing this, and why are you (I hope) reading this? Because, with respects to Dennis Leary, I’m just a regular Joe, with a regular job. I am not blessed with raw natural talent that allowed me to run under 17 minutes for a 5K with no training. In fact, I have to work pretty hard in order to do that. But through hard work, I have progressed substantially since my humble beginnings at a middle-to-back-of-the-pack runner.
I was always a “tweener” in high school and college. When I joined the Cross Country team my junior year of high school, there were two distinct groups: the top-7 varsity runners, who not only were talented but also cared enough to train hard, and the social junior varsity runners, who mostly were on the team for the camaraderie and girls. (Everyone knows runner chicks are hot). I fell squarely between those two groups. I never made top 7, but I cared enough to train hard and wanted to be varsity. I was the kid who tried to stay with the varsity runners in practice, but ended up fading hard and vomiting on the side of the field.
In junior college, while everyone else was running mile repeats at 5:30 pace, my coach joked that he would time me with a calendar. He would read off splits for everyone, and then as I came through, would say, “Monday, Tuesday…” But I wanted to be competitive, and so I trained hard. Or so I thought.
When I transferred to SUNY Brockport my junior year of college, I was lucky enough to make the cross country team. I had never really thought about it, but even at the Division III level, running is very competitive. I boasted a 19:30 5K PR when I joined the team, which put me squarely at the back of the pack. I wasn’t the slowest person on the team, but I was close. But something magical happened at Brockport. In the past, I had always thought I had trained hard because I ran workouts as hard as I could. Here, I learned that training hard involved running workouts at the correct paces, running as often as you could, and even running through the off-season!
This was mind-blowing to me. I had never really trained year-round before, and certainly had never tracked my mileage or workouts. Our coach at Brockport had use an online running log, so we could keep track of our training and how it progressed. I quickly adapted to this new method, and was soon running over 50 miles a week. The transformation was quick. Within a month, I dropped my 5K by a full minute. But I was still a tweener.
It wasn’t until after college that I became fast enough to even register as a blip on most D3 college team’s radar. But more on that later. For now, let’s leave it at this: I was never a very good runner, and still am a far cry from being elite, or anywhere near it, but I have made significant improvement though consistent and intelligent training, and I would like to share that with you. Thanks for reading.