There’s only one thing worse than long-distance running—writing about it. I’ve seen Lifetime movies more exciting than writing about this. Honest to God, mid-day, Lifetime, without touching the clicker.
Makes your stomach a little queasy, don‘t it?
I was frustrated, bored, a little hungry, mad and was about to call my editor with another priceless excuse to get out of the whole thing when I realized, therein lies the problem. The sport gets zero respect. No one writes about it, talks about it, and most of us know nothing about competitive running.
And if you go to CU, this is a cardinal sin.
I mean if the University of Colorado was a bar, and I use “if” for legal reasons, CU football would be your Keystone—not as strong as some people would like. CU basketball would be your Busch—not as smooth as others might prefer. And CU long distance running would be the Don Perignon—the cream of the crop.
Mark Wetmore, the head coach of track and cross country teams, has coached the most successful program in CU history and most people have no idea about what that entails. Wetmore has guided nine runners to 16 individual NCAA titles, 70 kids to 212 All-American selections and he has won 26 conference championships in his 15 years as coach. Not to mention the five NCAA team championships since 2000.
His reputation speaks for itself, but no one speaks of the reputation itself—paradox.
And we have had legends here. Adam Goucher, Dathan Ritzenhein and Jenny Barringer could run a shoe’s tread off. They could have their own record store with all the titles they hold. And yet, they are camouflage in a sea of nobodies.
CU sophomore runner Richard Medina said nobody has recognized him as an athlete on campus.
“Unless they are an athlete too,” Medina said.
Here’s a guy who is all Big 12 and ran the 10,000 meters in just over 30 minutes. I can’t even run 10,000 yards in 30 minutes. And that’s 30,000 inches less than Medina’s feat!
What’s that mean? Well for one, the metric system still seems a mere shortcoming in mainstream America, but besides that I don’t have the slightest clue. But I am going to find out.
This means I will run a long distance runner’s workout!
CU senior runner Kenyon Neuman said when he first came to the school, the long run of 20 miles was a little tough for him.
“The stronger women on the team would drop me after a few miles,” Neuman said.
“Not to fear,” I thought. Strong women dropping me after a short while is something I know all too well.
So, I will attempt to run 20 miles in Boulder on the Chautauqua path. I will bring a pen, small notebook and a pedometer (measures how far I have run) to describe my journey.
Man vs. 20 miles
Now before you start running you must warm-up. Injuries are a reality in running. Both Neuman and Medina have had stress fractures, Neuman has turned anemic at times and coach Wetmore has seen somebody get hit by a car. Those who suffered from foot injuries may need to see a foot doctor for proper treatment.
So you know, warm up.
To do this, you must first stretch and run at a moderate pace to loosen up. You don’t want to pull anything so make sure you run before you actually start running; you heard me!
Now that I have done this I will attempt to run 20 miles. I usually get a stitch just driving that far, but nevertheless, never judge someone before you have run 20 miles in their shoes.
I have finished my first mile, and I am feeling OK. The scenery is beautiful and like the Neuman kid said, I can see where it makes your mind feel free.
Had to pee behind some bushes. Wrote my name.
Medina was right when he said, “Running makes me happy and puts me in a better mood.”
Getting a little tired. Might have a couple stress fractures, still going.
Richard Medina also happened to say, “Half the time we (long distance runners) work too hard for our own good.”
No kidding, I thought.
So the 20 miles has conquered me. Of course I couldn’t have been smart enough to run in a loop, so this is my opportunity to walk the 5.1 miles back to my car…in shame.
I am supposed to have this thing called “runner’s high” now. Neuman described “runner’s high” as “the energetic, satisfied and accomplished feeling I get after I get in a long run in the morning … You feel like there is a spring in your step and your body tells you to just keep running.”
But as I waddle up to finish this test, there is a little taste of what CU’s most achieved athletes do day-in and day-out. Their feats won’t be put in the rafters of the arena and their accomplishments will be a secret to most, at best. At yet year-in and year-out CU keeps bringing in some more students willing to hurt, for no sense of notoriety.
They are a bread of their own.
So Coach Wetmore, we all must know, after all of this, what sets these athletes apart? What makes them different from the athletes who dream of the big lights of the NBA and the big contracts of the NFL? What makes them long-distance runners?
“They are generally skinnier,” Wetmore said.
That they are coach. That they are.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Brent Wilson New at Brent.firstname.lastname@example.org.