Thursday, October 28, 2010

On The Run

There are two guys who come into Jadwin Gym most workdays wearing suits and carrying gym bags. They emerge a few minutes later in running attire, and off they go, only to return awhile later to shower and put the suits back on.

One of them is tall; the other is short. TB is pretty sure they're lawyers. He's seen them for years, more than a decade, several times a week. He has no idea what their names are; his relationship with them consists of "hello," followed by some basic pleasantry about what a great day it is for running and/or what's coming next in Princeton Athletics.

TigerBlog has never been a fan of running. He's been a fan of exercising, though he's liked to get that exercise in the framework of playing a sport, rather than simply running.

Through the years, TB was a big fan of the Jadwin Gym lunchtime basketball game, something that a few years ago gave way to playing squash. If you've never played squash, go do so, because you'll get hooked on it immediately.

Even if there was no game, TB would rather ride the exercise bike than simply go out and run. The times that TB has gone running, he's spent the entire time thinking to himself "TigerBlog hates this."

As an aside, the best song TigerBlog has ever heard just might be, ironically enough, "Born To Run."

Still, TB does appreciate what it takes to be a long-distance runner, the dedication to keep going when it's so easy to stop.

And when TB looks at the athletic calendar each year, one of his absolute favorite can't-miss dates is the Ivy League Heptagonal cross-country championships, held in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx the last Friday of October.

And hey, tomorrow is the last Friday in October.

If you're anywhere near New York City, it's worth heading up to the park to check this event out, especially if you've never seen it before.

Basically, it's eight schools with two teams each who set up in a row of tents that are loaded up with sandwiches, bagels, cookies, cookies, brownies and cookies. Last year, TB sampled cookies from all eight schools and gave the edge, as always, to Brown.

Each tent is swarming with parents, recent alums, friends, relatives and anyone else, all of whom have come out to support that particular team.

The women's race goes off first, followed by the men. Construction in the park has forced the course to change several times, but the runners are not visible most of the time that the race is going on, but that only adds to the drama.

Eventually, the runners come back into view and close to the finish, which is right in front of the tents. They come across the line in a rapid formation of different uniforms, which makes it nearly impossible to the untrained eye to figure out exactly which team is where.

Last year, on the women's side, it was easy - even for TB's untrained eye. Princeton's women came in 1-2-3-4-5, which of course is a record that can be tied but never broken. It was an amazing site, with Princeton's Liz Costello so far ahead of the field and a trail of all orange and black behind her.

The men's race a year ago was much harder to figure, and with good reason. Columbia edged Princeton by a single point - one placing either way would have changed the outcome - and the drama was amazing as the judges counted and recounted before making a formal announcement.

TB has seen Heps winners who have crossed the finish line and look not the least bit winded, and he's seen many others who have struggled across the line in tears, who have collapsed just after finishing.

This year's races?

Well, Princeton is still the favorite on the women's side, but not as prohibitively as last year. In fact, Cornell, Columbia and Harvard are expected to challenge.

As for the men, Columbia returns four of its top five. Princeton is ranked 18th nationally and has run very well this year, and all of the top six finishers from last year's individual race are back, including Harvard's Dan Chenoweth, the 2009 winner.

In other words, it should be another great event at Van Cortlandt Park.

The women's race begins at 11, followed by the men at 11:45. The weather should be perfect. The races should be tremendous.

And so should the cookies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How much of a "home course advantage" is there in cross country? Obviously, there are no cheering crowds lined up along the route, but there must be some edge achieved from having run the same course many times, knowing the terrain, and being able to more precisely plot strategy in terms of when in the race to pace oneself and when to sprint all out.

I presume that Columbia trains in Van Cortlandt Park all the time and that Princeton and Yale get there as often as possible. Tougher challenge for the "country mice," Cornell and Dartmouth.