Even When It Stinks, It’s Great

Posted by Aimi Nguyen and Sam Hartke

From competitive high school runners to hobby marathoners, UTD’s Division III Cross Country team draws a mix of student-athletes with varying backgrounds. It also attracts more than a few McDermott Scholars. Every season for the past 5 years, between 1 and 5 McDermotts have been included on UTD’s roster and, though we may be known as those Scholars that always miss the annual broomball game or that have to run to practice after Bat Signal, there’s a bit more that goes into being a scholar-athlete.

McDermott runners and fellow Scholars at the 2014 American Southwest Conference meet.

If you’ve ever wandered far enough into the internet, you’ve probably read a buzzfeed-esque tribute to the ‘things that all runners can identify with’ (hint: blisters, carbs, chafing). However, running cross country at UTD is a unique experience unto itself, and there are a few things you don’t leave the team without learning.

11 Things You Know If You’ve Run Cross Country at UTD

  1. 8:30 AM classes are not the worst thing to happen to your schedule. Daily 7:00 AM practices at the soccer fields are. Your friends in 8:30 AM class by default become the ones who can tolerate the post-practice layer of sweat still dripping down your face. Some perks: always catching the sunrise, having an excuse to go to bed early, and getting priority class registration as a student. You also learn to be efficient. 7:00 AM practice? You set your alarm to 6:52 AM. If you own a bike, make it 6:56 AM.
  2. It’s the best way to see the state of Texas, from Austin to Abilene, and even the southern U.S. while in college. This is one of our favorite parts of being on a DIII team as out-of-state students; in the past 2 seasons, we have traveled to Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Virginia to compete. Among other opportunities, UTD’s athletic department has allowed us to present a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in D.C. and tour Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.

    Us at Kernstown Battlefied in Winchester, Virginia
  3. UTD runners are always hot. If strolling to class doesn’t make you sweat, throw in a few mile intervals or a 75 minute distance run during August, and you’ll start to feel like part of the team. Maybe both of us are from northern climes and need to acclimate. Or maybe it’s 90° F out with 80% humidity.
  4. Pedicures are necessary(ish). You start to paint your toenails to conceal the fact that a few of them have fallen off or are in the process of growing back in. It is entirely possible that this applies to just us; we’re pretty sure most members of the cross country team have all ten toenails intact.
  5. How to deal with the fact that sometimes (or every time for the past three years) you have to spend Halloween weekend at a meet. We make up for it by having costume parties on the bus.

    Left to right: Boy in Lederhosen, a hot dog, Rapunzel, Batman and Robin, and a sheep!
  6. Ice baths don’t get better even if you feel like you just ran 6 miles through a sauna. Our teammate, Mallory, can affirm that it’s the same regrettable experience one would expect: solid ice, melting ice, and stinging red legs.
  7. Where to find elevation change. What others may barely notice as a slope in their daily commute you espy as a training opportunity. Hills, or even bumps, are hard to find in our North Texas landscape but that doesn’t stop us (or our coach) from running more than a few miles off campus to find suitable topography for intervals.
  8. One lap around the soccer fields = 1 kilometer. You also know the distance between other arbitrary points on campus because you’ve run these routes so many times. Synergy Blvd to the Rec Center? Half a mile. Library to the tennis pavilion? 0.4 miles. A lap around campus? Almost 4 km. You to the nearest food source? Too far.
  9. Roomies are bae. Between the mess you made cleaning spikes in the tub, the twenty alarms that blare every morning to get you out of bed, or the communal gallon of ice cream you finished in 2 days, roommates tolerate a lot during cross country season. Lookin’ at you, Cynthia and Lauren.
  10. How to get away with stealing the last slice of Olive Oil’s pizza; you justify the copious amounts of food you eat by saying you run cross country, even when cross country season has been over for months.
  11. Team swag is for life. At the end of four years on the team, you’ve accumulated enough comet themed workout gear to last a lifetime. Which is good because you will never stop wearing the fleece-lined UTD hoodie you got this season.

Sometimes the last thing you want to do is peel yourself out of bed at 7:00 AM after staying up until 3:00 AM to study for an exam. Sometimes you feel a little nauseous and lightheaded after a strenuous practice in some especially brutal Texas heat. And sometimes, in the middle of a sprint workout, when you feel like maybe you were born with only one lung, it’s hard to remember that the reason you joined cross country in the first place was because you love running. Despite the agony of early morning wake up calls and finding ourselves in a perpetual state of hunger (which may not be entirely due to running XC), when November rolls around and the season comes to a close, our memories downplay the pain and suffering. And somehow, we’re ready to do it all over again.

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