Happy Valley Recap

Rebounding off a Saturday night of long travel, sketchy pizza places, and a hotel of questionable hygiene, the members of Maryland Club Running discovered quite the shock before resting up for the night. The hotel which they inhabited did indeed offer “breakfast,” but the magic word “complementary” was notably absent from that description. Panicked visions of famine and empty wallets raced through the minds of our team of stalwart protagonists.

Nevertheless, our resilient athletes took it upon themselves to rouse themselves a half hour earlier than planned on Sunday morning to forage for sustenance in the surrounding area before the meet began. In the semi-urban wasteland that is State College, PA, hidden food oases such as grocery stores, Dunkin Donuts, and some weird bagel place called “The Crust” revealed themselves, and with full stomachs and focused minds, the group swaggered into the venue with… well, swagger.

The races, under the watchful eye of local reporter Ryun Anderson, kicked off with the Distance Medley Relay, a rare yet welcome event. During this event, we witnessed five young athletes make their Maryland Club Running racing debut, as Maddie Mandich, Shannon Young, Konrad Shire, Liam Killea, and Matthew Statsiisduifbvibjrbuirvuxus took center stage and propelled our Men’s A and B teams to top ten finishes and our Women’s team to an 11th place finish. Also notable was a particularly speedy 800m leg from freshman Jake Ayres, who for some reason was not listed on the travel report and was not actually seen at the meet…

Immediately after, Sprint Chair Paige Munshell began her stellar day with a 7th place finish in the 60mHH. Munshell would later go on to complete an impressive triple, placing 10th in the 60m dash (with a new club record of 8.85) and 8th in the 200m dash. Meanwhile, fellow hurdler Ian Tumulty decided to scratch out of later events in order to focus on the 60mHH and a subsequent trip to Five Guys. Tumulty’s newfound passion and focus for the event enabled him to reach his goal of “not being last in an event of literally 4 guys.” Tumulty placed 3rd and proceeded to spend the rest of the meet graciously capturing his photogenic teammates in pictures that will fortunately, never ever be erased.

Munshell was not the only athlete to set a new club record last Sunday. Sophomore Noah Chong, in between his engineering homework set, threw 10.85m in the shot put, earning him a 4th place finish, a shiny new club record, and an impressive amount of chalk on his neck.

Excitement came from the distance side as young talent made, as Cardi B calls them, “money moves,” in the mile. Coming off her strong DMR leg, freshman Shannon Young chased a lead pack for the first half of the race, which allowed her to lock down a 6th place finish, with veteran Julia Heiges coming in quickly behind in 11th. On the men’s side, freshman sensation and manager of all our money, Brian McCullough took it upon himself to challenge Penn State’s Bryan Moon. Bets and wagers flew through the air as Battle of the Brian’s took place on the track, and fans were rewarded with a 4:25 full mile from McCullough, second only to Moon’s 4:23.

Hungry for more action, fans were again presented with a treat in the form of “the most painful mile I have ever witnessed” from Briggs Briggs, who almost perfectly duplicated his earlier performance in the mile leg of the Men’s DMR.

Fan’s and athletes alike took their time to recover, both mentally and physically, during the official’s intermission at 12:30. Slam poetry was delivered by McCullough’s other half, the cruelly crippled power-walker Nate Lieske. Naps were taken, lunches were quickly devoured, and Sour Patch Kids: The Cereal became the topic of many heated debates.

Nevertheless, action picked right back up as Statsdybbsfivobgriegons, the only man to not scratch out of the open 400m, proved that yes, distance runners can go sub 60, or as historians refer to it, “sub-Steens.”

The energy provided from this performance carried on into the next event: the dreaded 800m. Apparel Coordinator Simone Evans, ironically without a club uniform, flew off the line boldly and scored a strong 4th place finish in 2:36, but even she agreed that, had she been wearing a uniform singlet, that 1st place would have been a piece of cake. As if to prove that freshman are the only people foolish enough to run this dumpster fire of an event, McCullough and Shire took to the track and recorded some promising beginning of the season performances. Shire negative split his way to a 2:06, while McCullough thundered away from the field with 400m to go to take first place in the 500m dash, only to be savagely passed by 3 other competitors as he barreled through the last 300m to finish in 2:02.

Fresh from foregoing the open 400m, newcomers Killea and Harry Rentzeperis joined veteran Ian Lynch for the 200m dash (who was rebounding from an earlier performance in the 60m dash), where the big boys laid out an impressive spread of 8th (Rentzeperis), 13th (Killea), and 25th (Lynch). While not confirmed, it is speculated that former Sprint Chair Matthew Marcel looked on the 200m with a single tear of pride rolling down his face, his heart warmed by the efforts of the active sprinter core. Either that or he was thinking about the ticket he got on the way to the meet.

With the 200’s rounded out, those teams who remained at the meet huddled to the side of the banked curve for a glimpse of the final distance race of the day: the ever elusive 3k. The Terps packed three women and three men into the fastest heats, and the gambling addicts that hadn’t gotten their fix since the 800s began throwing down large wagers: dimes, quarters, even full dollars!

Shannon MacMaster, Emily Hawkins, and Sarah Shapiro duked it out in the fast heat of the women’s 3k with Shapiro securing a 17th place finish, Hawkins scoring 8th (going under the previous club record by over 10 seconds), and MacMaster figuratively ending the lives of every racer in the field. MacMaster led the race from start to finish, securing first place, a free T-shirt, a 12 second victory over the nearest competitor, and a new club record of 10:33.31.

To the palpable dismay of Penn State Track Club’s president, the Maryland boys also performed excellently in 3k, with Matthew “Mike Wazowski” Laskowski locking down 6th place, and Colin “R2W” SyBing and Rylan “Strava” Flint going 1-2 respectively <— very important. While no club records were set, Flint notably shaved more than 10 seconds off his 3k time from this meet a year ago, and all athletes were proud of the performances.

While most of the team “yeeted the heck out of there” after the 3k in order to dodge some impending snow on the drive home, diehard fans remained to witness the second fastest indoor 4x400m in club history from MacMaster, Evans, Mandich, and Heiges. The team was possibly most proud of Heiges defying all the haters and slashing time off her seed split of 80 seconds. The men’s team, as is custom, scratched out of the 4x400m. One of the prospective legs, when pressed for his reasoning for scratching, replied “Oh absolutely not.”

In the end, the Terps returned to College Park happy to be far away from Happy Valley, but proud of their early season performances and excited for the coming season. Next: Capital Relays at American University.

 

Running2Win Propaganda: Part 3

Commissioned by Colin SyBing, 2019 UMD Club Running President 

Written by Shannon MacMaster, 2018 UMD Club Running Vice President

           As most of you know, I, Shannon MacMaster, live in the small town of Seaside Park, located on the coast of New Jersey. The piece of land is basically a 400 meter wide sandbar that acts as a wind tunnel and sits between the Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic ocean. I have been a dedicated member of the Running2Win community since December 2016, logging my workouts and running adventures there for over 2 years now. Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018 was the day I began my summer training for Cross Country season.

          You are probably wondering why any of this information is important? Well Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018, also happened to be the day I made a Strava account. While this was a tough decision, as I had been boycotting the app for some time, I was told there was a group for my area in which I could find many trails around where I lived, a feature Running2Win does not provide. Determined to not run the on the same exact straight road every single day this past summer, I took to the site to find some new routes. I also found some other features Strava provides that r2w lacks:

– The ability to “like” each other’s runs

– The ability to post photos(So if you run in the evening and are similar to my mom in the fact that you enjoy taking a picture of the sunset in the same exact spot every night post it on social media with an inspirational quote, this might appeal to you)

– Running challenges and goals that you can try to hit

          But let me tell you about an experience I had with one of these challenges. I somehow joined a challenge, presented by Lululemon, in early January, that required you to run 80km by January 15th. Once I ran the 49.7097 miles, I was surprised to receive an email containing a 25% off coupon. While you may think this is a lavish reward, let me shed some light on the fact that this is actually a slap in the face.

          A pair of full length, solid color, Lululemon running tights, regular price, cost $98.00. 25% off means that these tights will cost $73.50. I’ll have you know that I recently purchased a pair of full length, lightning bolt patterned, Old Navy running tights, for $8.50. That’s right folks. $8.50. I’m sure you now understand why I was severely offended by Strava’s “generosity”.

          And while Strava is much easier to use and navigate, it lacks the intimate team aspect that Running2Win provides. We, UMD Club Running, have allowed r2w to evolve into a place where we can support each other through the the ups and the downs of our training. We have built a community on that terribly built website in which our infatuation with running is not only acceptable, but encouraged and we can vulnerably share our successes and failures with our teammates.

          A couple weeks ago, when I did a fartlek in Hyattsville, I accidentally peed in my pants TWO times. Did I feel comfortable writing about this experience on Strava? No. Did I feel comfortable writing about this experience on Running2Win? Absolutely. No one was from our team was going to judge me about that one.

          Running2Win has taken on the role of my training diary and I gladly give it some of the credit for my successes over the past year. Take a look at a quote from my post from November 22nd. After briefly summarizing some of my running checkpoints of 2018, I wrote:

          “So what I am saying is, thank you Maryland Club Running for letting me take on Vice President, become obsessed with running because of it and ultimately letting me reach my full potential. And thank you r2w for letting me exercise this obsession because even throughout this season, I was more motivated while using it, and the last 2-3 weeks were kinda rough training wise and I wasn’t posting(coincidence? I think not).”

           In conclusion, Running2Win is far superior to Strava, and if you haven’t signed up yet, you should!

A Joint Message from the Office of the Treasury

In defense of New Jersey

By Brian McCullough

 

While at the welcome back gathering I was introducing my roommate to people at the party and would always mention that he was from Jersey, which then brought out statements to my roommate like “ah what the fuck man” and “wow your life must really suck” as well as middle fingers and vigorous shakes of the head in disapproval. And while I enjoy shitting on the state that gave us Snooki and Kris Kristy just as much as the next guy I feel the need to at least attempt a defense of the state that my roommate lives in.

 

First need I mention the teams best meet from last XC season was in New Jersey and next to Princeton no less? That’s right the state that you hate also gave our team the XC course that allowed people to smash PRs (including a new club record from Shannon), get called to the podium for the first time and for the men’s team a well deserved victory, which destroyed the now tattered name of Princeton’s running club. But even after our victory was announced the men’s club at Princeton humbly acknowledged their Beta male status and kneeled before our immense superiority, a testament to their hospitality and grace in the face of humiliation. This hospitality lays in stark contrast to how many describe New Jerseyans as a-holes and jerks.

 

Also while we may compare Jersey to waste that pollutes the good name of America I would like to point out that Wawa litters their entire state. This great American franchise is not just where New Jerseyans get 100% of there gas and 80% of there food, instead it would be more accurate to describe it as part of there lifestyle and who can really blame a whole state for falling for a store that serves high quality sandwiches 24/7. On a personal note any store that challenges McDonalds (the only store I’ve maintained a lifetime boycott of) monopoly on the lucrative 2am drunk food market has my full support.

 

Now I’ve saved this for last, because I know that it’s what we all truly hate the most about Jersey: the tolls. Driving through New Jersey is like using your fake at Bentleys. First you have to buy the car/fake then you have to pay for gas/alcohol for the pregame then you have to pay the toll/cover fee and then you have to pay for the overpriced shit inside New Jersey’s gas/drinks at the bar. Now to be truthful when I remembered the tolls I stopped writing this blog post then xed out and was about to hit don’t save with they intention of resining myself to hate New Jersey for the rest of my life, until I remembered one very important thing. It wasn’t New Jersey that built these interstate highways and their annoying tollbooths it was the federal government.

 

This got me thinking what the problem with the federal government was and then I remembered something Nate told me a while back “Rhode Island is a completely useless state and should be annexed by Connecticut immediately.” This here is the real problem with America. Small states like Rhode Island get two self righteous senators who think they know what the country needs despite both of them representing only 0.3% of the population.

 

Therefore as of today the office of treasury is proposing a new state for the finest club east of the Mississippi to shit on. The completely useless, utterly irrelevant, and just insignificant state of Rhode Island. A state founded by a radical outcast of Massachusetts, who didn’t even have the decency to flee for the frontier like every other self respecting outlaw in our nations history. Switching our shit on state to Rhode Island will also remove any hard feelings that may be harbored by some of our clubs most treasured members who call New Jersey home (the Mulleted Mike DiDonato).

 

In addition unlike our clubs unstructured hate of New Jersey, Nate and I have an end goal in mind, to give our hate a meaning and mission. That goal is to eradicate the scourge of Rhode Island with a needed act of political courage and nobility, which will be fulfilled in due time. I give you Nate’s righteous proposal.

 

The Annexation of Rhode Island

By: Nate Lieske

 

Many people seem to have a positive perception of the irrational state that is Rhode Island. It will be my goal here today to change their minds.

Rhode Island can be compared to a tumultuous tumor growing to the east of Connecticut. It drains life from my home state with promises of beautiful beaches, but in reality it is nothing more than a disgusting growth. Rhode Islanders are reluctant to inform visitors that their coastline holds the shameful position of 5th worst water quality amongst states with beaches. Connecticut stands at a respectable 12th out of the 30 states with beaches. These facts reveal that Rhode Island has essentially stolen much of Connecticut’s coastline and polluted it beyond repair.

Perhaps some people are undeterred by the idea of swimming in filth. However, how would those people enjoy risking life, limb, and property on their way to these waste infested waterfronts? Rhode Island is ranked 48th in infrastructure quality when compared to all 50 states. While driving through its precarious roads you will encounter potholes deep enough to be the setting of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. Connecticut sits at an impressive 24th.

Connecticut is clearly more proficient at maintaining its infrastructure and waterways than Rhode Island is. Everyone in both states would be better off if they were to merge. What would the name of this “new” state be? Connecticut. My home state would be investing billions of dollars into a nearly hopeless wasteland. They will not tarnish our name. Puerto Rico could then join the union so we do not have to redesign the flag or lose two senators.

I am hereby calling for our club to come together and move on from our hate of New Jersey. There’s a smaller, but much more rancid fish to fry now.

 

 

We hope that this blog, written mostly because we have nothing better to do, but also because we emphatically believe this change in our clubs core values is needed, has convinced you to join us in changing the state we hate.

 

Water Quality Stats: https://www.ecowatch.com/how-does-your-state-rank-for-beach-water-quality-1881929051.html

 

Road Quality Stats: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/rankings

Absolutely Not

Greetings blog readers. There’s an awful lot of crazy controversy going around, and while Rylan is perfectly entitled, by the First Amendment of our constitution, to express his objectively and obnoxiously incorrect opinions, it’s important to stay true to the facts. Thus, here’s a quick cheat sheet for everyone to reference anytime you hear the fell word “Strava” besmirch and sully your clean ears.

Thus, hot off the presses, is “10 Reasons why Rylan is Wrong:”

  1. How dare you cite Coke vs. Pepsi as a rivalry. Please do not legitimize Coke as a drink on our pious UMD server.
  2. I assume neither of your “dual degrees” require any kind of writing ability. Learn how to use commas.
  3. If I wanted to read an entire post as one paragraph I would walk to the nearest elementary school and ask a kindergarten teacher to provide me with the latest work of their most challenged student.
  4. You implied that people, in 2019, use Internet Explorer to surf the internet. I can only assume that you are thus, not a technologically savvy college student, but in fact my grandmother, who consistently tries to use a house telephone to turn on our television.
  5. You admit to riding these contraptions called “bicycles,” which is actually French for “the Devil’s transportation.”
  6. You could’ve spent the time you spent biking running instead, or learning that “triathlete” and “freshman” are not proper nouns and thus require no capitalization.
  7. Claiming the moniker of “favorite Virginian” does a disservice to the 90% of Virginians that I like better. What about Allen Iverson? What of Meriwether Lewis and Ella Fitzgerald? What about your next-door neighbor that I haven’t met but is probably a very pleasant person?
  8. I do not know of this “Danny Schofield” that you’ve acknowledged at the end of your piece (if you can even call it that). I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re referring to “Sanny Dchofield,” more colloquially known as “Sanny Chodefield.” Get your sources right next time and cite them in APA or possibly MLA format like an adult.
  9. You’ve logged a run on Running2Win 13 times in the past week. It seems clear that you’re quite the avid user, but I suppose we can’t expect the henchmen of evil syndicates like Strava to display any type of loyalty.
  10. Strava backwards is “Avarts,” which any runner worth their salt knows is an acronym for “A Very Absurd Running Tomfoolery Stunt.”

Don’t be tainted by the ramblings of a man who ends his speech on a quote from quotes.com. Do yourself and the world a favor and hop on running2win.com for all the raw, quality content that Strava is simply incapable of providing.

 

Yours Truly,

Not Rylan

Purging the poison of Running2Win in a Strava starved society

Spartans vs. Athenians, Coke vs. Pepsi, Lamborghini vs. Ferrari, Marvel vs. DC, Cowboys vs. Indians. What do all these things have in common? Well their rivalries command a certain place in our hearts. From bloody Peloponnesian conflict to good old fashion western shootouts each of these rivalries have been balanced for centuries as if Justice herself has blindly held the scale. What rivalry do we not see among the pantheon of great debates? Oh, that’s right, Running2Win vs. Strava! Usually I take the high road citing my favorite author Samuel Clemens “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” But I find in this extreme circumstance I can no longer stand by while an oppressive regime seeks to dilute the sacrosanct weekly email in favor of a Running2Win agenda. Put plainly Strava’s superiority is unmatched by any of its peers. According to a source close to the company “They [Strava] have the best interns!” My source also stated that “They [Strava] have a public facing API that any runner can work with and make their own cool stats.” While I am but a lowly dual degree even I can fathom that a public facing API as presented by Strava vastly out does the complicated and distorted product presented by Running2Win. But maybe you don’t mind! Perhaps you can wade through the disgusting soup that congregates upon your internet explorer browser window. So instead of citing the cold hard facts, as many of my fake news counterparts might do, let me present instead a personal anecdote. Last year as a young and eager Freshman I signed up on Running2Win. I then connected the abomination to my Strava therefore allowing both runs and bike rides to be automatically uploaded. While I will spare the gruesome details I, through no fault of my own, ended up on the leaderboards of Running2Win. Some might claim I was cheating hastily pointing out the suspicious patterns of my mercurial fitness. All I can say is the amount of disgusting and upsetting hate mail I received was downright overwhelming. All 2 messages as well as the forum post about myself were thoroughly disheartening. But fear not for I found solace in a community of Cyclists, Triathletes, Skiers, and Runners on a beautiful platform known as Strava. So where do you fit in? Maybe you’re a perspective member, wily alumni, seasoned vet, auspicious newcomer, or curious parent. Your social status does not matter in so far as I have already provided a universal answer. This is not a question of Coke Vs. Pepsi or Marvel vs. DC the debate over Running2Win vs. Strava is nonexistent. Strava is the answer. And so, I challenge you to ask not what Strava can do for you! But what you can do for Strava!

Sincerely your favorite Virginian and former esteemed treasurer of treasuring,
Rylan Flint

Link to the University Of Maryland Club Running Strava Group: www.strava.com/clubs/umdclubrunning
Link to the Sign-Up page on Strava: www.strava.com

Acknowledgements
I would like to acknowledge Danny Schofield who wholeheartedly pledged his support for Strava while also acknowledging he secretly likes Running2Win. I’d also like to make note that Mark Twain is the smartest man to ever live and John F. Kennedy is a time traveler who plagiarized from me, not the other way around.

A Reflection

By Colin SyBing

Dear UMD Club Running,

As I write this, it’s almost midnight on Sunday November 11th (though it’ll probably be much longer before I finish). More specifically, I’ve just emerged from a post-Nationals car ride coma, checked the grade I received on the midterm I took right before leaving last week (eh), commented on a couple of Andrew Lent’s meme-y photos from the meet, and already begun experiencing NIRCA withdrawal. But, as I reflect on yet another wonderful weekend full of running, inside jokes, and absurdly cold weather, I can’t help but feel a bit emotional and look back at the past half year. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to look back on the past six months and share my experiences with the team and take a moment to think about the future. That’s right; kick back and choose your favorite assignment to procrastinate on, because it’s gonna be a long blog post. Let’s reminisce.

Anti-Climax

As I rounded out the final, ~90-meter straightaway at UMD’s very own Kehoe Track, I glanced at the clock to confirm the suspicion in the back of my mind. For the umpteenth time in my career as a 1500m/mile runner, I had led the race only to been outkicked in the last 200m by some guy with better leg speed and a smarter racing strategy. Despite what Prefontaine might tell you, running boldly doesn’t always pay off when you can’t kick. But that wasn’t what stung the most. What stung, deep within my throbbing chest as a slight drizzle began to fall down on the track that Friday night in May, was that ever since a thrilling 4:01 PR a month prior, I had failed to reach my season goal of breaking 4 minutes in the 1500m, a goal I held ever since entering college.

I puked up the 251 dinner I had 3 hours prior into a nearby trashcan as my father came on to the field to congratulate me on my fantastic 5k race (my father, to this day, doesn’t know how long a track is). Regretfully, I looked up at the varsity athletes setting up to run the fast heat of the 1500m, the cut for which I unfortunately did not make. I couldn’t help but feel another pang of disappointment as I realized that my season had just ended, and ended in such an unceremonious fashion. No more interval workouts, no more lacing up spikes, no more laughing at kids with horrible form with Jacob from the stands. Yet another year of running completed, and yet I was still left without that sense of climactic achievement: the bursting sensation of finally smashing that goal that you’ve been working towards for months. Nothing. Zip. No ceremony, no inner satisfaction, no victorious spirit left for some club kid that got outkicked in the slow heat at a varsity meet.

I shuffled through a short, rainy cooldown jog as I prepared to cheer on my teammates for the 5k. As I awaited the starting gun for the final event of the night, I began mentally mapping out the next couple months. “Build up your mileage, stay consistent, get the strength training in, hit the midsummer tempos, and then you guys will have your shot at a great nationals finish.” It was all so simple. Nothing could possibly go wrong. My planning was cut short as I was tasked with shrieking at my teammates in the rain for 12.5 laps around our stupidly proportioned track, but I knew that, despite my disappointment today, my teammates and I had a shot at working on something great, and that alone was enough to lift my spirits: a belief in a better tomorrow.

The Long Summer Months

After a week of finals preparation, summer goodbyes, and, most notably, no running, it was time for a very special part of the year: summer training. Everything’s hot, everything’s long, and everything’s possible. This year, unlike past years, we had clear goals and an ambitious training plan from everyone’s personal life coach, Jack Wavering. Hit the miles, do the workouts, make the podium at Nats. Simple. Elegant. Genius. Not only did we have an A-1 training plan, but we had some bomb-ass plans to follow it. With a large portion of the boys team still in and around College Park and the move in date for an infamous non-club-associated house just on the horizon, we didn’t just have a training plan, we had a training team, a luxury not many college teams possess.

And boy was it a blast. Through three and a half summer months of torturous summer class, a music festival, World Cup matches, trips to the beach, a shitty half-internship that I still haven’t been paid for, counseling at a summer running camp, and a trip to Canada, through heat warnings, 100% humidity, thunderstorms, early mornings and late nights, over concrete, dirt paths, but mostly concrete, I powered (and sometimes trudged) my way through summer miles alongside my teammates, my roommates, and my best friends. New routes were constructed, running playlists were carefully designed, and friendships were strengthened. My team was with me every step of the way as we all strove towards that Nationals podium, with tens of salty core sessions, hundreds of rounds of Contact, and most likely thousands of popsicles.

And from what I saw on the greatest running log site known to man, the 8809 group was not the only one putting in great efforts. At the end of long days in a classroom, I would pull up running2win to read tales of heroes, tales of Katrina waking up before sunrise to run before work, of Elliot pumping up his mileage and quickening his pace during his first year of summer training, of Sarah and Julia driving across Maryland to find a place to run together, of Christina fighting to return from a nasty injury in the spring, of Ryun running multiple times each day at blindingly quick paces, and of Shannon running even faster than Ryun because why the hell not? Each of these teammates, and all the others that unfortunately use Strava like hobby joggers, were all working for the success of the team and for themselves, embodying what I believe to be truly beautiful about our sport. It was these people, the people who were forced into bad situations but fought to reach their goals anyway, who faced great adversity and simply didn’t care, who inspired me when my training was at its toughest, and for that I thank everyone (and running2win).

Each day, I got faster, leaner, and more confident as I logged the hardest miles I think I’ve ever run in my life. Capping it all off in August with two consecutive 70-mile weeks (my highest mileage weeks ever), I strode into the school year with the utmost confidence in myself and my team, with just shy of 800 summer miles on my legs and legs of my teammates to back it all up. This was it. This was our year. After two years of not living up to the potential of our training due to nagging injuries and generally unfocused goals, we were waltzing into Fall of 2018 with a goddamn squad.

New Beginnings and New Successes

The semester started off quick and chaotic like normal. Classes are hard, finding time to run is difficult, apparently you have to start applying for jobs in September, and there’s a whole new crop of names and majors to memorize. Nevertheless, it was clear, at least to me, that this year had a different vibe to it. I felt more focused, more motivated, and generally in higher spirits. My morale was further bolstered by the arrival of a fantastic class of new club members, some with stories that’ll make you laugh hours after you hear them, some with impressive running accolades, and all of them with positive, cheerful, motivated attitudes that I certainly wish I had as a freshman entering a new environment. Everything was lining up perfectly, and everyone around me seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves, something I think we can take for granted when semesters get busy.

From September to mid-October, I felt invincible. It just seemed like everything was going right; my classes were interesting but not too tough, I had a couple internship interviews lined up, and my EWB project was getting off the ground, but to be honest, any joy I took from those paled in comparison to how I felt when I ran with this team. To paraphrase Mitch, “Literally nothing else matters as long as you’re fit.” And he was right. No matter how long a day I had or how sleep-deprived I became, I had trump card for happiness; I was fit and I had a great group of people to run with. Some personal highlights of my semester include (but are not limited to):

  • A 6:30AM 20 x 400m with Mitch followed by a 7AM Lumberjack with Mitch two weeks after
  • Running at 9PM on a Monday with Jack only to be outrun by a guy in jeans who was late for his shift at Blaze
  • Running a mile with Elliot and MT while finishing a freezy-pop on the first day of practice
  • Nearly losing a time trial to some random freshman
  • The Toga Party
  • Finally running a decent race at Paul Short at my 4th time at that stupid course
    • Hearing about Andrew and Mitchell’s race after that and subsequently crying of laughter
  • Styling on the IM soccer field during our most successful season yet (long live Yeet City)
  • Following MT on a run of 20+ guys to PG Plaza that somehow turned into Riverdale, because all routes are actually just Riverdale

A Glorious Day: Princeton

With two races under our belts by mid-October, it seemed as though our third would be spoiled by some unforeseen circumstances. The Princeton Invitational, the historically fastest meet of the year and fastest course on the east coast (unless you’re a girl), had its existence come into question due to “construction” on the course. How you perform construction on a cornfield literally two days after the varsity meet at the same course remains a mystery to me, but I’ll give the meet coordinators the benefit of the doubt on this one. There was talk of rescheduling and cancelling, talk of moving the meet, and talk of going to the *shudders* Georgetown Invite instead. The uncertainty was absolutely maddening.

Fortunately, Princeton’s Running Club, led by a really fast leprechaun, that girl that doesn’t know how to read results, a sentient didgeridoo, and Jacob’s boyfriend, found an alternate course at a park in New Jersey. With bright eyes and high hopes, we set off for New Jersey on an early Sunday morning, and were rewarded with perfect weather, great competition, and, most importantly, the actual fastest course on the east coast. My Lord this park was like cross country heaven, mainly because it was nothing like a cross country course; not a single hill could be seen and 80% of the race was run on a crushed gravel path.

The girls raced first, and the results could not have been more encouraging. People were PR’ing left and right, shaving multiple minutes off their fastest times. People were so excited that it seemed as if the air itself was electric. I could hardly contain myself as the girl’s race wrapped up and I began warming up. Today was going to be great, I could feel it. My chest swelled with excitement as I was rudely photographed doing my leg extensions on the start line once again. As always, Ryun graced us with a wonderful pump up speech about turtles and defense and whatnot and we strode back to the line.

As soon as the gun went off, I flew out to the front to dodge traffic at the first bottleneck. Despite some later chastising from Ryun, I thought I was off to a dream start. As the first mile wore on, I allowed a group of 10-11 leaders to move up ahead. For someone who usually chases the leaders, an odd calm had settled over me. Maybe it was the hyperventilating guy in sneakers and a T-shirt that sprinted ahead of me to chase the leaders that told me that some of the guys in front of me were likely to drop back eventually. I rolled through the first mile with the leaders still in my sights, not bothering to check a watch or listen for anyone yelling out a split; I knew it was fast. Calmly, I decided to maintain my following distance until the third mile before making any bold moves, and as I made that decision something miraculous happened. Mitch came up on my shoulder, barely breathing. I was already determined to race well, but there’s something about racing next to a teammate that you’ve known for years, matching strides, knowing that you both feel good that makes you think “Let’s. Fucking. Go.”

Mitch and I ran stride for stride for the next 3 miles, watching utter carnage unfold in front of us. The leaders were dropping like flies. One by one, overly ambitious athletes faded from the front pack, only to be surrounded and passed by Mitch and me on either side, never to be seen again. Soon, we hit the grass by the start for the final time, meaning that we had just a bit less than a mile to go. I focused my eyes 30m forward on my next victim: the dubious individual known solely as “Princeton Guy.” At this moment, a sliver of doubt crawled into my mind for the first time. This guy was older and more talented than I was. I watched this guy lead the Mid-Atlantic Regional race one year ago from 50th or so place. If I even got close to catching him, he’d most likely just outkick me. Maybe this was it. Maybe my luck had run out. Maybe it was time to settle and cruise to the finish. But as Princeton Guy rounded a turn about 30m ahead of me, he did something that melted any fear out of me.

He looked over his shoulder, straight at me. He was scared.

In an instant, I became a different runner. My hips were no longer dropped. My stride lengthened ever so slightly but my feet were leaving the ground faster than before. My arms were pumping harder and my eyes were glued squarely on the shoulders of my newest competitor. I was bounding closer, closer, and closer still with every stride. This runner who I had previously classified as completely out of my range, totally above my paygrade, was moving back to me in slow motion. Ten seconds later, he was a thing of the past. I blew by him with a kilometer to go, and soon I put another runner behind me as well right before making a hard right onto the final straightaway.

Eyes focused straight ahead, I saw Ryun’s back in the distance. Ryun, who consistently ran workouts twice as long as I did (and way faster too). Ryun, whose running logs made my eyes pop out of my head. Ryun, the guy who I watched score a bronze medal at track nationals six months prior. That guy was in my sights. Maybe it’s rude to say this about a teammate, but I can tell you honestly that I’ve rarely felt a stronger urge to accelerate than I did in that moment. 600m or so later, and it was all over. I had closed my following distance to a meager 10 meters, and as I leaned over the line, I craned my neck to the left to see the clock.

Holy shit. 25:30 and change. I didn’t even have time to calculate that as a 70 second PR before my teammates started streaming across the finish line behind me. Mitch flew in right behind me, and then Brian blazed into the chute, followed soon after by a hard-kicking Rylan and Jack, and in that moment I let out what could only be described as a primal scream. This was it. Not only did we have this meet in the bag for the second year in a row, but we did it in triumphant fashion. Scorching fast times aside, we had run together perfectly, and dominated a rival team that had blown us out of the water at Regionals and Nationals last year.

The rest of the day was a blur of congratulations, granola bar fueled sprints (courtesy of the long-missed Matt Patsy), and victorious devouring of free food. The crowd of parents and athletes gathered around a picnic table to read out results, and for the first time in 3 years, I stepped up to receive an award on a cross country podium. More importantly, the girls’ team earned a podium finish and the boys’ team was announced as the returning champs. For me though, more important than any time or place or celebratory rubber duck, was the return of a feeling long-lost. For the first time in a very long while, that bursting swell of accomplishment, that pride, that primal joy of knowing that on this day, I laid everything out on the course and performed at my best, that I truly became the best version of myself, that feeling returned. What I was missing at the Kehoe Invite last May, what I fell short of during cross season last Fall, and what I spent long summer months fighting to reclaim, was finally mine again. And with Regionals a week away, I wanted more.

Obstacles

Regionals. Oh boy. I had a personal history of completely blowing it on this course. Team-wise, for the past two years, we’ve strode up to Lehigh with the intent of walking away with the trophy. In both my years on this team, we’ve managed to find a brand-new source of swagger right before this weekend, whether it’s a post-Lumberjack pump up speech from Ceruzzi or a strong team performance at Princeton. This year was no different, and the background audio on a certain video on NIRCA’s Instagram from that week will confirm the presence of some cockiness. In past years though, it never worked out. We, specifically the boys’ team, always ended up blowing up or underperforming (aside from some unofficial race results stemming from a course mishap last year).

For anyone who can read results, it’s no secret that that trend continued this year. Some things happened out on those Lehigh hills that happened yet this season. People burnt out early, fatigue showed on the legs of many, and the killer instinct necessary to succeed in an 8k was nowhere to be found. The boys and girls each finished 4th, and while I would later chalk up this less than stellar performance to the fact that we trained through the meet (as opposed to other teams who may have designed a small peak into their training plan at the expense of a sharper peak at nationals), I couldn’t help but walk away from Lehigh with a sour taste in my mouth, though I suppose it’s hard not to get frustrated with the dystopian echoes of “We Are Penn State” still distantly ringing in your ears.

Despite a disappointing weekend of racing, I shook it off and turned my focus to the future once again: three weeks until Nats. Three weeks of speed refining workouts that would take months of training and transform it into raw speed (or speed raw enough for an 8k). With the culmination of my training so close, even the second Lumberjack lingering on the horizon didn’t scare me. I was raring to go get some great workouts in, but at the same time my poor performance at regionals left me somewhat cautious. After consulting with a past coach, I decided it would be best to forego this week’s interval workout and the race at UVA for a couple longer tempos and a relaxing weekend at home back in Rockville. My reasons for returning home for a weekend extended beyond running. In the preceding two weeks, somewhat due to losing my weekends to meets, schoolwork had begun piling up, alongside a mountain of bureaucratic BS for my EWB project and a fat stack of labs waiting to be graded. I could barely stay awake in class anymore and I could feel my motivation to succeed slipping away. I was going home as a bit of a mental vacation to destress, catch up on some homework, meet up with some old friends at a high school county championship meet, grab some home cooked food, and see my parents for the first time in a while.

But as I mentally checked out from my responsibilities that Wednesday, some worrying signs started appearing. The temperature took a quick drop, and as it did people around me began getting sick. I mean really sick. Quarantine kind of sick. Some classmates of mine got hit hard with the flu, but I had gotten vaccinated so I wasn’t particularly worried. Academically, I continued limping through until the end of the week, putting off assignments and meetings until the upcoming week. If I could just make it to the weekend without getting chewed out for missing a deadline, I’d be just fine. That’s what I told myself, and by some miracle it happened. Then, as I returned from my final run in College Park for the week that Friday evening, as I stepped back into my house right behind Mitch and prepared to do a short hip workout in the living room, something peculiar happened.

My head began pounding, breathing started to become a bit more difficult, and within 5 minutes I was on the floor of the living room shivering uncontrollably. While I stabilized a bit after a half hour and a warm shower, it was clear that I was coming down with something. While obnoxiously timed, it wasn’t too surprising; Hiro had been sick for the past couple weeks, Christina had come down with an illness a day before, and Jack actually passed out sick on his bed shortly after I returned from my run. Nobody’s safe when it comes to biological warfare. With my head fuzzy and my legs unsteady, I sloppily packed my duffel bag for a short weekend home and awaited the arrival of my parents. When they finally arrived on the way back from my brother’s white coat ceremony in Baltimore, I dropped my bag in the trunk and slumped into the backseat of my mother’s Honda Accord. Through what was likely a rude mumble, I told my parents I was feeling sick, and after catching up for about 10 minutes, I lost any strength I had left to socialize and proceeded to pass out as we slogged through beltway traffic.

Back in Rockville, feeling a bit stronger, I stumbled into my old house, parked myself on the living room couch, watched a recording of a recent Celtics game with my dad, geeked out over the new Smash Bros announcement with my brother, and went to bed early in the guest room that used to be mine. Consciousness sliding away, I pulled up my phone to let Ryun know that I most likely wouldn’t be up for the tempo we planned for Saturday morning, but that I would probably still see him at the county championship as a spectator. Missing one workout wouldn’t derail my training significantly and attempting a tempo in this state would simply be unproductive. Might as well soak up some recovery over the weekend right?

I soon found out that no recovery would be occurring this weekend. I woke up at 3AM, somehow simultaneously shivering and drowning in sweat. I tried to throw my covers off, but I soon realized that the strength I needed to get out of bed simply wasn’t in my body. With significant struggle, I crawled onto the floor, stood up, and snatched my water bottle from my nightstand and drank greedily. By the time I had emptied the bottle, my head had started spinning from standing up too quickly, and I realized that I needed to get to the bathroom. Quick. I barely made it through the pitch-black hallway in time before I had to vomit. A less than ideal Friday night, but there have certainly been worse ones.

My night did not improve after that, as I quickly became trapped in two-hour cycles of falling asleep shivering, waking up sweating, going back to the bathroom to splash water on my face, and then returning to bed only to dream/hallucinate about being dissected by aliens that all looked vaguely like past cross-country coaches. I slept well past 11AM but did not feel rested at all. My throat pulsed with agony whenever I spoke or coughed, my head spun when I stood up, and somehow the entire world was simultaneously too damn hot and too damn cold. After a warm breakfast and some tall glasses of OJ though, it all seemed to subside. I could walk fine and my fever even dropped a bit. My mom shot me a concerned look when I told her that I still planned to go to counties (which had been delayed due to rain), but I assured her that I wouldn’t be there long and that I’d come right back as soon as I started feeling sick. Within 10 minutes, I was on the road to Briggs’s alma mater to fulfill some promises to some old friends.

After a day of watching my high school team get wrecked and avoiding handshakes for fear of infecting the rest of the general population, I returned to my house a bit fatigued, but not feeling any severe symptoms. I concluded that the worst was over, that I had sweat out most of the fever already and that I’d be right as rain come Monday morning. I even managed to catch up on some grading that night before my tiredness got the best of me and I passed out on the couch. About an hour later I returned to my guest bed with a full bottle of water and an extra heavy blanket, ready to finish off this sickness with a hefty ten hours of sleep so I could get back to business on Monday. I had a training schedule to keep, after all

No such thing occurred. Friday night was a warmup, and Saturday night was the main event. I could barely scrape two consecutive hours of sleep before I had to switch blankets to get rid of the one that was slick with sweat. Nightmares occurred and re-occurred, water bottles were emptied and refilled, clothes were changed, and I soon began to wonder whether there was an end in sight. When my dad opened my door at 9AM to check on me, my room was a swirling mass of discarded blankets and clothes with a writhing, shuddering, broken animal at the center. I croaked at my dad that I needed to see a doctor, and he obliged.

It turns out that strep throat can be pretty nasty when crossed with a vicious strain of the common cold. My dual illness would continue to trap me in my bed for the rest of the week. Unfortunately, life in the outside world continued, and the world had decided to kick me while I was down, Scott Sterling style. While indisposed, I received two internship rejection emails that essentially wiped out the last of my current prospects, missed two midterms, got screeched at over email for being behind on EWB work, and, perhaps worst of all, found out that Shannon, Mitch, Dan, Anna, Dolf, Lent, and Jacob had all begun experiencing similar symptoms. After a week in bed, two doctor’s visits, a round of antibiotics, a couple half portions of chicken noodle soup, a thoughtful visit from a recovered Christina, and a full season of Attack on Titan, my body had finally recovered, but the universe in which I previously existed had shifted completely while I was gone, and I was not prepared to go back to it.

But I could’ve forgiven all the knocks I received in that week if it wasn’t for a discovery I made on Sunday afternoon. For the first time in eight days, with nationals a mere six days in my future, I laced up my running shoes and took a jog around my neighborhood. The leaves in my neighborhood that were green when I had last looked at them had morphed into brilliant colors. At first, I was stunned at how Fall had come instantaneously, but I remember I hadn’t stepped outside in seven days for anything other than a short drive to the doctor’s office. Glad to be outside again, I allowed myself a small bit of optimism. However, once I began jogging up my street, the truth settled in. Like it usually did, my running2win entry encapsulated my feelings perfectly: “2.8 Miles in 20:49 [7:26 per mile]. oh dear god I forgot how running works. 8 days of sickness. fuck.”

The Deepest Valley

After some last-minute packing, I piled my things into my father’s RAV4, an old stick-shift that always smelled faintly of cigarette ash. Daylight savings time had kicked in a day before, so it was already pitch-black out at 7PM. As we pulled onto I-270 with The Eagles playing out of the Bluetooth radio, my father cheerfully asked me how it felt to finally return to school. In hindsight, it was funny how disconnected our mindsets were. We had probably spent more time together in the past week than we had in months, but I suppose we hadn’t communicated a lot beyond me asking for a glass of water or for help walking to the shower.

How did I feel about returning to school? About facing up to a mountain of responsibilities I had ignored for a week? About starting a long and demeaning internship search over again? About begging professors to let me retake midterms that I wasn’t prepared for in the first place? About running a race, a championship race that I spent six months preparing for, as a shadow of the athlete I was just two weeks ago? I told my father exactly how I felt. I told him I was frustrated. Furious. Miserable. Scared. I asked him how I could be expected to do any of this. How could I can continue to devote my time and effort to these pursuits that mean so much to me if all that progress could be deleted in a week by a couple of microbes? I told him that I was at the lowest point that I had been in a very long time, and the worst part was I had no idea how I was going to claw my way out. Everything I had spent the last six months building was crumbling, and it seemed like I wasn’t going to be far behind.

My father listened as he piloted us past beltway exits. A generally easygoing man for a first-generation immigrant, my father responded to me in the way only someone whose life experience infinitely eclipses your own could. Without skipping a beat, he told me that he was surprised that I was even having these thoughts. He thought that, after all the adversity I’d faced as an athlete, after all the work I’d done as a student from an overly competitive high school, after all the stories I’ve heard about how difficult his life was in the Philippines, that I would’ve grown up and accepted some things about the world. “The world doesn’t owe you anything. Any work that you do might earn you a chance at what you want, but you’re not guaranteed jack shit. And it sucks. It’s hard. But that’s the world you live in son.”

As you can expect, I had absolutely nothing to respond with. I didn’t know what I wanted or needed during that car ride, whether it was empathy or sympathy, or some acknowledgement of how unfair my situation was, but I was sure as hell that it wasn’t a lecture about how I was being entitled. We spent the remaining 15 minutes of the trip in complete silence, aside from my “Parents” playlist cycling through the Rolling Stones and the two Tom Petty songs that my dad knows. Soon, we pulled into my driveway and my dad helped me move some groceries and fresh laundry back into my house, again without any conversation (and even more oddly without seeing any of my eight roommates). With my possessions all squared-away, I walked out the garage door to thank my dad for driving me back. I began to mouth the first word of some half-assed goodbye when the conversation was taken away from me. The wind had picked up a bit, but I could make out every syllable as my dad hugged me in the middle of the driveway and breathed two sentences in my ear:

“I believe in you son. Not because you’re my son, but because you can do it.”

Something in my chest broke. In 30 seconds, my father was gone and I was back in my bedroom, sitting in the middle of my floor, sobbing. For a while, I couldn’t pin down a specific reason for it. There was a lot in it at once: fear, mental fatigue, loss, disappointment, but at the same time, there was relief in there as well. I don’t think of myself as overly emotional, and I also like to think I’m pretty independent, that I don’t rely a lot on other people. But this felt different. Maybe it was just the sincerity in the words, or that they came from my dad, but when I think back on it hard enough, I think the reason was that, for a while before he said that he believed in me, it didn’t feel like anyone did.

Belief

Brian, who I now suspect is an omniscient being from another dimension, once told me that, no matter how the weather at your high school regional meet, whether it was 70 or 40 degrees, it would always be sub-freezing at your state championship a week later, which is probably the most accurate thing I’ve ever heard. Nationals in Kentucky, which I found out is not actually in the deep south like I thought, was no exception to the trend. After some eccentric upperclassmen races and a long bathroom wait that forced me to run a solo warmup to the woods and back (truly dark times), I stood on the start line, moments before the gun with one thought; “Mittens or no mittens?”

Ryun’s final pre-race speech wasn’t met with overzealous screaming today like it usually was. The jokes about turtles or other teams weren’t there today, and Ryun kept his voice level and steady as he delivered his 2 minutes of inspiration. He talked about being a senior, about how much work we had put in together, and about the obstacles we had hit. It was true; four of the seven guys on that line had spent at least half a week with the plague in the past two weeks. We we’re about to fight quite an uphill battle. But Ryun passionately disregarded all of it. “Today isn’t about the physical stuff. That was done weeks ago. Today is about that logo on your jersey. Today is about how much that logo on your chest means to you, and whether or not it means more to you than some other guy’s logo means to him.”

Despite the speech, I had no illusions about my capabilities. I spent the week prior struggling to complete five-mile easy runs. It had been almost three weeks since I had run a mile in under six minutes. Beyond that, I was 90% sure I was still sick. But just because I didn’t believe that I would PR, or earn an All-American certificate, or even score for my team, didn’t mean that I didn’t believe in anything. I believed in Ryun’s message. I believed that no matter the race results, that the white ‘M’ emblazoned on my chest meant more than another letter of the damn alphabet on anyone else’s crusty ass singlet. I didn’t need a trophy or a medal to know that I ran for the best team on that starting line, and that was enough.

Five minutes later, we were all out there together amidst a toiling sea of athletes, jostling each other around as they struggled to fight through the frozen mud. Already straining to breathe, I rounded a curve to watch the leaders hit the mile mark about 30 seconds ahead of me. Feelings of indignance crept into my mind; a couple twists of fate in the opposite direction and I would’ve been chasing them, not stuck in the back with a dude racing in sunglasses and another guy in a T-shirt. But I silenced those thoughts. I didn’t live in that world anymore, and I was going to focus on what I could control. With each progressive mile I fought new competitors as the race ebbed and flowed. I lost some battles and I won some, worked a couple uphills just right and botched some others. My body my have faltered many times in those five miles, five miles that I had run around a thousand to train for, but one thing never changed out on that course. At every turn I made and every hill I crested, through the thunderous tunnel of sound that surrounds runners on a crowded course, I heard my teammates cheers piercing through the noise. They were out there with me, when they could’ve been preparing for their own races or relaxing in a heated car. If there was any doubt about it before, it was completely gone now; my dad wasn’t the only one who believed in me.

My finish, once again, was unceremonious and lacking in terms of personal achievement. Just like Kehoe six months before, I finished another season not with a bang, but with a pop scarcely louder than the faulty starting pistol at Nationals. But this time that blow didn’t have the same sting to it. Sure, I hadn’t reached the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the season, and it would be a long time until I had another shot. A younger me would’ve been worried about ever being able to make a real run at those goals ever again, worried about what my short future as a college athlete held, but as I staggered back to the tent shivering for warmth under a sheet of aluminum foil, I was enveloped by a symphony of hopeful sounds. Jokes and heartfelt congratulations were exchanged. Those who raced shared advice with those who hadn’t, and successful runners modestly deflected praise. Plans for cheering on the remaining runners were concocted and wishes of good luck were sent towards the girls’ team as they departed for a warmup.

A younger me would’ve been worried, but after all I had gone through with this community, after the endless workouts we dragged each other through and the brutal obstacles we helped each other overcome and the failures we rebounded from together, I knew I had nothing to worry about. I was not alone. I was no longer cold. Thanks to every single person on this club, our tomorrow looks bright, and I truly believe in that.

Tomorrow

I may not have achieved exactly what I set out to do this semester. In May, my goals fit into the framework of any generic, computer-generated cross-country runner: An All-American finish, a podium finish for the team, and a shiny low 25-minute PR. Good place, good team finish, good time. More generic than a cornfield in Ohio. What I’ve found instead, is that I achieved a lot of what I didn’t set out to do this semester. I’ve connected with so many new people, and found some friendships with people who have been around for a while who I’ve just never clicked with until now. I’ve failed, and recovered from those failures, and in the process become a more resilient person and learned more than a fast time could have ever taught me.

This is what I believe is so special about our club. We attract so many people with such diverse backgrounds and goals, and when these people all start to interact, they start to resonate and react to each other and, in many scenarios, people end up getting way more out of the community than they expected when they first approached it. We are all constantly changing and being shaped by the people around us, and I am grateful that I get to surround myself with people who are constantly trying to better themselves, both as athletes and people.

As the semester winds down and we look to the future, I’m certain that I’m going to look at this season as a special one, and I plan to enter next semester with a newfound determination. Not only determination to exact my revenge on Penn State for permanently damaging my hearing with their dumb chant, but determination to be the best version of myself. The best part of this team is that I know that I am not alone in that. I hope you all took as much from this season as I did and are looking forward to sticking around for the Spring and beyond, because I believe we’ve got a special group of people here, and it’s truly the people, all the people, that make UMD Club Running the wonderful phenomenon it is.

The Odyssey of a Homemade Singlet

In loving memory of five dead pigeons

              To truly understand the journey our beloved homemade singlet undertook during its glorious existence we must start from the beginning.

Chapter I – The Canvas

The date was February 16, 2018. The location was Thousand Oaks, California. I entered a running store with my aunt and mother called Roadrunner Sports. My aunt lives in California and she decided to celebrate my first time visiting her out there with a trip to this store. She told me that she would buy me a pair of shoes and a clothing item of my choice. First, I scoured the shoe display searching for something with decent support and cushioning for longer mileage. Eventually, I settled on the Brooks Levitates. (I used these shoes through out indoor and outdoor track that year. They were ok, but I hear the Brooks Levitate 2s aren’t the same.) Next, I began to rummage through the clothing isles waiting for something to catch my eye. I thought perhaps a new pair of split shorts or tights would be in order. After a few minutes of searching I saw something that interested me – a simple navy-blue singlet. My high school singlet was the only one I owned at that point, so I decided picking up another one wouldn’t be a bad idea. I ended up using it in one road race, but it was quickly replaced by a different singlet and collected dust in my closet until I brought it to Maryland with me.

Chapter 2 – The Paint

The date was September 1, 2018. The location was College Park, Maryland. I entered a convenience store with my roommate called North Convenience. I had recently moved into my dorm and my roommate and I decided to buy some masking tape to hang things up in our room with. We quickly found the isle containing all the tape and settled on a roll of white masking tape. Despite my protests, he ended up paying the entire cost. However, the tape was ineffective at sticking to the wall and the roll ended up at the bottom of some drawer.

Chapter 3 – Rendition One… The Birth of a Meme

              Shortly after joining the running club, we ordered apparel that included an official club running singlet. However, the apparel was not expected to arrive until a couple of weeks before nationals. There was the option to rent a singlet from the club, but for an unknown reason this did not appeal to me. As the first meet of the season approached, I decided to use my original navy-blue singlet. Quickly, I realized that it had absolutely no Maryland spirit, so I bought a pair of Maryland flag shorts from Amazon. The day before Paul Short while I was packing my bag, I decided that the flag shorts were not enough, and I had a Eureka moment. I searched through a drawer until I found that reject roll of tape that failed to stick to the walls, and I applied a simple masking tape “M” to the front of the singlet. After stepping back and admiring my creation from afar I decided to add a line under the M. Once I finished the line, rendition one of the homemade singlet was complete.

The reveal of the first home-made singlet at the start line of Paul Short went well. Overall people seemed to like it. However, Mitch informed me that It looked like a Michigan singlet. This observation was valid as Michigan also has navy blue singlets with an M on the front. The realization that I had unwittingly represented the wrong team weighed heavily on my soul throughout the race and the weeks that followed. I was determined to return to the next race with an improved version.

Chapter 4 – Rendition Two… The Sting of Failure

              Throughout the two weeks leading up to the second meet of the season I reflected on the lessons I had learned at Paul Short. I thought long and hard on what I could do to improve the singlet every day. Many ideas crossed my mind such as printing out a picture of the Maryland flag and taping it to the jersey. However, this idea, and all the others, were tacky and stupid. Before I knew it, the night before Princeton had arrived and I had no ideas. I decided to scroll through pictures of college team singlets for inspiration and saw multiple designs with words going down the back. This was quite aesthetically pleasing so I decided to implement it into rendition two. I started the creation process with the same “M” with a line underneath on the front. Next, I made a “MARYLAND” running along the back of the singlet vertically by cutting strips of tape in half. It took a few tries to get the placement and sizing right, but the result was beautiful.

I wore the second home-made singlet to the meet and revealed it right before the warm up. The reveal was a huge success as everyone was a big fan of the MARYLAND addition. Pride and happiness carried me through a great warm up. However, when we returned to our area after the warm up I was informed that all the letters on the back were falling off. I looked down at my chest and noticed the M was failing as well. Shock and despair filled my mind and heart instantly. I had no choice but to remove the MARYLAND. Elliot helped my repair the M with some safety pins and more tape. Unfortunately, we had to sacrifice good looks for structural integrity. While we were standing at the start line Briggs looked at what had become of the singlet. I cannot recall his exact words, but the general idea was that I was a disgrace to the University of Maryland and the team. Each kilometer of that 8k race was dedicated to one of the letters that fell off my back.

The night after that race was hard. I wondered if I was cut out for making singlets. I questioned what I was working towards. Was this a dream that I was chasing, or just time that I was wasting?

Chapter 5 – Rendition Three… The Singlet Stronger than its Creator

              During the week between Princeton and NIRCA Regionals tragedy struck. I felt a pain in my left shin and would find out a few weeks later that it was a stress fracture, but at the time all I knew was that it hurt way too much to run on. Despite not being able to run I accompanied the team to regionals for moral support.  The day before regionals I decided to create a singlet and bring it just in case. However, the pain from my recent failure was still fresh and I only put the M with the line on it.

While I was talking to Brian at the meet, he told me that he did not have a singlet. I happily gave him rendition three of the homemade singlet to use. Although I had succumbed to injury, my creation was going to continue to cross the finish line. Brian did not warm up in the singlet, and the tape ended up staying on fine. Through this meet I learned why I had failed at Princeton. The sweat from warming up in the singlet weakened the tape before the race even started.

 Chapter 6 – Rendition Four… The Game Changer

              A few days before the UVA meet I was discussing the homemade singlet with Mike (DiDonato). He told me that he wanted to wear it, and I happily agreed to create another one. I was eager to apply what I had learned at regionals to rendition four of the singlet. The night before the meet I once again meticulously created a MARYLAND down the back.

The morning of the race I made sure that Mike did not warm up with the singlet. This day was the most fun I have ever had while spectating a cross country meet since nearly everyone was making a meme of it. I ended up giving a hype up speech, handing a slice of bread to Dan, Brian, and Elliot mid-race and handing a whole loaf of bread to MT. However, deep down beneath all the memes I was slightly nervous about the performance of the singlet. Heading to the start line, it was in perfect condition. The gun went off and I scrambled to my bread hand off positions throughout the course. About two miles into the race I saw Mike run by and was happy to see the MARYLAND was still intact. Next, I stood at about 500 meters to go and continued to hand out bread. Shortly, Mike came into view with someone in a unicorn costume in pursuit. As they passed I caught a glimpse of the MARYLAND still fully intact. I was nothing short of overjoyed. After a failure at Princeton that made me question everything, this victory was huge. Also, Mike out kicked the unicorn so we all won that day.

CHAPTER 7 – Rendition Five… The Finale

              As nationals approached, the club apparel arrived, including the singlets (they are amazing). Shortly after they arrived I decided that nationals would be the homemade singlet’s last race. It had served its purpose as a place holder and was beginning to show signs of wear and tear from its journey. There was a small hole forming in the back and there were permanent stains from the clay and mud of the UVA course. I wanted the final rendition to be the best one and considered many elaborate editions. However, I eventually settled on adding color to the tape for the first time. The night before we left for nationals, I spent a concerning amount of time drawing the Maryland flag design on the line of tape beneath the M with red, yellow, and black sharpies.

The night before nationals I was discussing the singlet with some guys and both Briggs and Craig offered to wear it. As it worked out during race day, Craig would be the one to take it across the finish line for the final time. I enjoyed watching all the races take place throughout the day, and unlike UVA I was not nervous about the performance of the singlet. I knew deep down that it would perform well on the national stage. After all it had been through, I had no doubt it would hold up.

The gun went off for the Freshman/Sophomore race and Craig set off carrying the singlet through its final 8k. It was admittedly hard to spot the singlet in the sea of runners, but we managed to pick it out in the crowd a few times. Each time we saw it everything was still intact, and this would remain true as Craig crossed the line. The singlet’s odyssey was complete. It had crossed the finish line of every race that season

Chapter 8 – The Conclusion

I find it quite poetic that a useless roll of tape and an unused singlet combined to make something so memorable and meaningful. Something that I will laugh at every time I see a roll of masking tape. Something that helped me bond with my teammates. I’ll miss spending an hour cutting and coloring tape, but this meme has run its course. Here’s to the next one.

Acknowledgements

 I would like to thank the people that made this possible. Thank you to Mitch and Briggs for encouraging me to improve my singlet when it did not live up to its full potential. Thank you to Brian, Mike, and Craig for taking it across the line when I couldn’t. Thank you to Lent and Hiro for documenting the singlet’s journey through photography. Finally, thank you to the club as a whole for the funnest (I firmly believe funnest should be a word) XC season of my life.

Why Club Running is the Best Thing Ever

As we close in on nationals, I decided I would finally share a post I wrote a while ago. Enjoy!

If you ask anyone close to me what they think my favorite part of college is, I guarantee you they won’t tell you all the homework, or exams, or even the ~crazy~ parties. They will tell you my favorite part of college is being a part of club running. And this answer is 100% right. Let me tell you why…

I think we need to back up a bit. Ever since I was young I have been a part of some sort of sport. For a long time it was soccer (which I still miss!) before I transitioned over to only focusing on running in high school. High school track and cross country was great. I met great friends (even my current boyfriend) and had loads of fun at meets. Because of this great experience, I was determined to keep running (especially doing so on some sort of a team) in my life on college. Enter Maryland club running!

Freshman year is a confusing time, despite what some people’s Instagram might show. If you go out of state like me, you most likely know close to no one at your new school, and you’re just trying to find ways to pass the time until class starts. Like I said, I was eager to keep a running team in my life, so through my summer research I had already found and contacted the running club at university of Maryland. From the day I arrived on campus, I was counting down the days until the first practice. Before we go any further, let’s get something straight. I am NOT an outgoing person when I first meet someone. So something I’ve loved about sports my whole life is that it’s basically a bunch of instant friends! You spend hours together each day until you feel comfortable with each other without even realizing it happened. When I went to practice that first day, I was hoping I found “my people”. At first I stuck around because everyone was nice, I liked running, and I liked the structure it added to my day. I didn’t talk much, but was content just being there and listening to the chatter on group runs. Practice provides a guaranteed 2ish hours of stress relief each day. I can’t quite pinpoint when it happened, but eventually there’s was a different reason why I kept sticking around. Don’t get me wrong, the people are still nice, I still like running, and I still like the structure it adds to my day, but there’s more now. I truly understand club running now. This wonderful sport manages to combine the best aspects of running with the best aspects of club sports to produce (in my opinion) the best activity you can participate in, and here are my top 5 reasons why:

  1. It’s FUN: A few weekends ago we ran a race, and it was one of the freshman’s first cross country races ever. I saw her cross the line with a big smile on her face and she later told me how fun the entire meet was. Despite the pain racing inevitably causes, it really is fun to push yourself to your limits and see progress throughout the season.
  2. Nobody takes themselves too seriously: Club running meets are never short on shenanigans. Will people be running in costumes? Yep (I once witnessed two girls run an entire race in the RAIN in dinosaur costumes, that’s some serious dedication). Will one of your races be started by a didgeridoo? You bet. Will your team get a pumpkin full of candy for placing in the top few teams? Only if you’re lucky! (and yes we’ve been lucky enough for that). And finally, yes. You might just catch someone cheering with a loaf of bread in one hand and an ear of corn in the other.
  3. The competition is there if you want it: Even with all of the fun, NIRCA (the National Intercollegiate club running association) is still extremely competitive if that’s your thing. If not, no worries! You’re more than welcome to hobby jog in the back of the pack. But for those looking to see how much faster they can go, club running has the competition to push you to a new personal best.
  4. Fun trips with your friends: Sometimes to find the competition you have to travel a little bit, which means… overnight meets! Yes, basically a big sleepover with your friends with some running on the side! Okay, maybe the running is the main event but sometimes the stay in hotel is just as fun. Where do we travel you might ask? Last year we traveled by van all the way out to East Lansing Michigan to compete in the NIRCA cross country national championships. Oh man was it cold, (or hot who for those who caught on fire… ask Shannon for details) but it was SO worth it. We got to compete against clubs from all over the country, cheer on our teammates, run some fast races, and have a fun weekend not worrying about school.
  5. The people: My 5th and most important reason is the wonderful people. First, the people from other teams. They’re supposed to be the competition, right?? You might be racing each other, but we all still encourage each other during races and congratulate each other on a race well run. I will never forget when I lapped a girl from another team in a track race and she cheered me on BY NAME as I ran by. If that isn’t true sportsmanship, then I don’t know what is. Now about my own teammates. My teammates have become my best friends (some even my roommates). They’ve taken me on my first backpacking trip, introduced me to the world that is bubble tea, and showed me how to be genuinely excited for each other’s triumphs and be supportive them when they fall.

I hope you get the point because I think I’ve gone on for long enough. In short, CLUB RUNNING IS THE BEST THING EVER.

Briggs Briggs Briggs Briggs(and some puns) brought to you by your favorite Virginian

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

Hullo!!! For those of you that don’t know me I am Rylan as in maRYLANd, one of the current co-treasures, runner extraordinaire, the cream of the corn of Virginian type on this here team, fan of all things Nascar, occasional bike enthusiast(but most certainly not a traitor) and most recently the proud owner of liquid entertainment to aid in the vital construction of this eloquent blog post(If anyone guesses the correct brand they win a high 5 next time they hand me 5 dollars). I’ve decided to dedicate today’s blog post to everyone’s favorite Briggs…… Briggs! While I may be a bit biased(As he may or may not have sponsored this post) he certainly is my choice as number 1 webmaster. When I was but a lowly freshman I will tell you like let me be 89% honest I had no clue what the difference between a Clewley and a Briggs was. Over time however, as I discovered Barefoot Briggs(and honestly what the heck where’s the Oscar?) and began to know the real Briggs better I began to realize wow what a cool guy. Btw freshman Rylan I finally figured out what Brigg’s real name was(Who could have guessed he would’ve been named after that :0) Ok(or is it okay?) Okey so the “liquid entertainment” has really started to kick in I’ve if I could nominate Briggs for an award surely it would be for the what a great guy award because tbh what a guy. But also I might nominate him for the wow what a great guy award because what a great guy. Anybody that can successfully be as dedicated and cool as Briggs should be well commended(Sorry this got out of hand my mind keeps wandering off to Joey Logano the greatest Nascar driver of all time). Anyways I promised puns and that is what I shall dedicate the second half of this beautiful baby of a blog post to. Welllllll as I am fast realizing puns are hard to think of of a random Tuesday. It’s not like they’re just running through my mind. Honestly they’re hard to keep track of. I guess if you were a table you’d understand. But for all of those people reading this blog post I do apologize for you see I have continued to write well into a corner. And while I don’t mean to be sharp we must all look at this from the right angle and think am I really that acute? Ok or okay or okey? or k(I was told only to use this while I’m mad but for as crazy as I sound I might as well be) congrats y’all for making it to the end of Sophomore Rylan’s blog post ttfn!!!!!!! I’ll see y’all on Wednesday please ask how my night went!

Ps: I just watched the Vox video on ok vs. okay highly recommended still think Victorian people are dumb tbh goddamn get a real bike and child free workspaces for heavens sake

Hot New Routes

It’s about that time of the year when I have to bring the blog back to life, so here are some new routes! As always, I highly recommend looking at the maps of the routes and/or bringing your phone so that you don’t get lost!

Cherry Chill Loop (4.9 miles): Fun fact: Cherry Chill can be looped by running through Hollywood! Once you get past the second bridge on cherry chill, take a right and cross Route 1 and head up Hollywood road. Once you reach Rhode Island Ave, take a right and head towards Greenbelt road and back to campus.

https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2289717640

Greenbelt Metro (7.1 miles): This route starts the same as the cherry chill loop, except you go through Hollywood to the Greenbelt Metro station, and back through the new neighborhoods. Just be cautious when running through the metro station, as you will literally be running right by the turnstiles people use to get to the platform. Wouldn’t recommend this one with a large group of people.

https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2289720103

Semi-Historic Berwyn (4.75 miles): Have you ever wanted to run around all the historic sites in Berwyn? Me neither! But here’s a route in case you had the sudden urge to do so. There are a couple gates on this run, but they have pedestrian entrances on the sides of them, so be on the look out for those. Disclaimer: There aren’t THAT many historic spots on this run.

https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2289721822

Cemetery Loop / Hills for days (9.9 / 6.2 miles): This one just sounds like torture, and to some degree it is, but it is also home to some of the best places to run (in my opinion). There is a shortcut to get to this route behind courtyards, which I have shown on the map. This route can be an out and back, and it’s 6.2 miles if you turn around right at the cemetery. If you decide to run through the cemetery, you can reach the northwest branch trail, and take that back to campus. There are lots of hills, so don’t blame me if this route kills you.

https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2289727930

Greenbelt Lake Loop (9.5 miles): Take a trip down memory lane back to the time trial at the beginning of the season and run to Greenbelt Lake! This route is pretty nice for a long run, and incorporates some trail running which is always nice. The map is pretty easy to follow.

https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2289731311

Sligo Creek (10+ miles): I’m 90% sure I’m the only one who has done this run, but I 100% recommend it for a long run. Take University Blvd to the power lines, and then take those to the Sligo Creek trail. From here, head north for however long your heart desires. It’s about 3 miles to the trail, but once you get there it’s beautiful.

https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2289733390

Stupid Neighborhoods (6.35 miles): This route was completely improvised because PG Plaza couldn’t be done, and it ended up being a big mash up of routes, but I kinda liked it so I decided to add it to this post. Look at the map before you run this one, or I guarantee you will get lost!!

https://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/2289735244

That’s all for this post, let me know if you guys have any routes / distances you want me to add to the next one! Thanks for reading and happy running!