Saturday, September 10, 2005

Ants, High School students, and lots of running.

I've been running for almost ten years now and today I experienced my first highschool cross country meet, The Coaches classic. I have to say I am hooked. I never thought watching running could be so entertaining. I have to start by saying that a 5 K is going to take 30-35min to complete a race, so it is much more exciting than waiting for a marathon or even a 10k to finish. The second part of this experience was the location. I think it was called the coach's classic here in Columbia, SC. It took place at some kind of research or ag farm associated with Clemsen Univeristy. My understanding that much of the area was used for fire ant research in the past and therefore is not an ideal place for sandal even today. The course was made up grass paths running and winding around thickets of small groves of trees. This was also a huge meet hundreds of highschool students.

I got into this because my wife's cousin started running with the crosscountry team this year. She is a 9th grader at Dorman High School in Spartanburg, SC. She has the ideal build for a runner but has only been running for a couple of weeks. She is progressing well and shaved off 5 minutes since last week, which is huge. She still has plenty of room for improvement, but if she sticks with it she can easily become much more competitive.

It's pretty cool to see how the race worked in that a all of these girls start out about five people deep, side by side in a huge field. The gun sounds and accross the field all ~200-300 of them go. The field of runners quickly begins to spread and the trail progressively narrows. There are certain place in the looping race that you can see multple mile markers in the race at once.

It is awesome to watch the communication. Many teamates having already ran or waiting to run are screaming out things cutting accross the course to their teamates. How much they're losing/gaining ground and other things. Today was interesting in the girls varsity becasue there was a hands down favorite who is shooting to qualify for nationals yet again this year. At one of our critical points we could see the first mile marker. The favorite was easily already at least a minute ahead of the competition. Keep in mind there are other good runners chasing her. By the second mile marker which is on a huge up hill, there were some people throwing up and walking and dropping out. The favorite was at least a minute and a half up. The communication was going nuts with people running to their teamates to give them updates of where they were in the competition. THEN, it happened. Somewhere on the backside of the course the hands down favorite stumbled and dropped out of the race. It's not clear what had happened, but the rumor was that she had dehydrated for the second race in a row secondary to some sort illness she has been battling for a week or so. Obviously this changed everything in the race. The girls who were 2-5 behind the leader were now neck and neck battling for first. The teammates who were shouting to the field that the leader had dropped out caused a surge in the front of the race. On the back half mile, the new leader was pushing but enough steps up to stay in the lead. The new second place runner was just barely up and the others were breathing down her neck. best runner from Dorman stepped up busted away from the runners near her to finish third with the second place person only a short distance in front of her.

It was quite a race. Kate Niehaus is the girl who was favored she finished a race earlier this month in 17:01.


BRATCH said...

I know I like nothing better than to watch people run themselves sick.

I can appreciate a lot of sports, but running is a participatory sport not a watching sport.

Now if the course wound through giant fire ant mounds then that would be interesting.

my_merlin77 said...

I understand your hesitations about running being not for watching. I do agree to an extent, but seeing it live probably that one exceptional race made the difference. If you think watching running is dumb, what about watching people drive cars in circles for hundreds of laps. Now, that't dumb and deafening.

BRATCH said...

I'll agree that watching car racing is dumb, but crashes are more fun in racing than running. Either way, NASCAR is a great sport for Sunday. Watch the first 50 laps, sleep for the next 150 to sometimes 400 and catch the last 50 while eating dinner. That's a solid Sunday.

Also at least with the racing you'll see the cars each lap, in running you just see them twice unless you run with them.

Again, introducing fire ants into the fold would improve both running and racing.