Hoosiers Can't Stop Running
Sept. 23, 2009
By Jeremy Rosenthal
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - When it's so cold the air pierces your lungs, they still run. When it's so hot you can swim in your sweat, they still run.
They are the IU men's and women's cross country teams and they train and compete all year-round. Most cross country athletes also compete in track and field, and each year there is an NCAA Championship meet in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.
Redshirt senior Wendi Robinson reached the NCAA meet in all three last year and was an All-American in cross country.
She can count her number of days off all year on one hand.
Robinson said she took three or four days off last year and although she was fatigued by the end of the outdoor season in June, she added it's a strange feeling when she doesn't run.
"If it is a day where I didn't run or work out at all I'll definitely sit there," she said. "You just feel a little bit different. I personally like exercising. For me it's like `oh man, I really want to get out and do something.'"
Many other collegiate sports train for the majority of the year, but few have the same amount of competitions and intensity that a runner engages in. While other sports might have on off-season, this cannot be the case for runners, who need to be at a high fitness level all year.
Once the cross country season ends in late November only a few days are taken off before preparation begins for the Jan. 9 start of the indoor track season. The indoor season ends on Mar. 13 and the outdoor season starts Mar. 26. For some of the best athletes, they will be competing until the USA Track and Field Championships, which conclude Jun. 27.
The next few weeks are a mix of running every other day, the small break the athletes receive. By the time August roles around, the team is in the midst of their highest mileage, and the cycle continues.
Robinson said she doesn't view the challenge of training for such a long time as a negative obstacle.
"All the athletes here love to compete," she said. "We are lucky that we get to compete for a bigger portion of the year. In that sense your competing more and not having to do that long boring training as much."
Redshirt sophomore Cole Hardacre will compete for IU in all three seasons for the first time this year. Hardacre, who averages 80-90 miles a week all year, said he also approves of the system.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," he said. "I love competing and that's why most of us do it."
Running throughout the year brings about challenging weather conditions. Robinson said she can recall waking up at 8 a.m. to conquer 12 miles with heavy snow, ice and wind. Another day after coming back from a competition, she and senior Sarah Pease took off on a run, sensing rain was in the immediate future. It only took seven minutes for the downpour to commence.
"It was raining so hard that we were literally soaked," Robinson said. "You can't see. There is lightning. We were like `this is not happening' so we came back and ran six miles inside."
An additional challenge for the Hoosiers is balancing athletics and academics.
Robinson said she makes it a point to focus on one area at a time.
"When I'm here at practice I'm not thinking about this assignment or school work," Robinson said. "You have to prioritize and plan out your time to make the most of it. Sometimes people read stuff for class in the ice bath and definitely when we travel you can do a lot of reading on a bus or plane ride."
Academically, Robinson is pursuing graduate work in Exercise Physiology. Athletically she will have the chance to do something this year that no other Hoosier has accomplished: earn All-American honors in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track in the same school year.
IU coach Ron Helmer, who has coached athletes that have accomplished the feat, said he believes Robinson will have a good national meet in all three, in large part because of her maturity.
"Getting through that long period of time for a young person mentally is difficult but physically is very manageable," he said.
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