Your running career does not have to end when you graduate high school. There, I said it. The secret is out.
"But wait," you say. "I love running, but I’m not fast enough to run in college."
Here’s a little secret that, thankfully, is becoming more and more widely known.
Collegiate running clubs are increasing in popularity. We have a governing organization called the National Intercollegiate Running Club Association (NIRCA), which hosts a cross country national championship in the Fall, a road and track national championship in the spring, and numerous cross country, indoor track and outdoor track invitational meets across the country.
NIRCA was founded in 2006 to promote running nationwide on the collegiate level. NIRCA’s mission is to provide competition, support, and networking opportunities for club members. At the NIRCA cross country championships held in November 2013 in Hershey, PA, over 1300 runners from 60 different schools competed.
Many former MoCo runners discovered club running, and have continued to advance as runners. I myself compete for UMBC’s club team, and many former MoCo runners are here with me. To drop a few names…Jatin Narang and Kyle Jordan, formerly of Clarksburg, Matthew Davis, formerly of Springbrook, and Thomas Ryba, formerly of Whitman all represent UMBC’s running club. We all compete, unified under a new identity, and found something that so many MoCo runners lose when they graduate high school: a team. We are, in every sense of the word, a team. We run together, workout together, eat together, and attend *ahem* "social events" together. Most importantly, we grow as runners together.
Many other former MoCo runners have found their school’s club team. University of Maryland’s Terp Runners is a very active running club with numerous former MoCo runners: Catherine Panasenkov, Angie Powell and Kris Lasko, formerly of Quince Orchard; Nick Stavely, formerly of Poolesville; Alice Lu, formerly of Churchill and Eileen Ser, formerly of Northwest. To drop a few more names just to drive home how prevalent NIRCA is becoming, David Levine, formerly of Wootton, now competes for Cornell; Zach Weinstein, formerly of Churchill, now competes for Stanford; and Michael Borten, formerly of Quince Orchard, now competes for University of Virginia.
I took a strange path to find myself competing for UMBC’s club team. I walked on to UMBC’s varsity track and field team. However, due to an unfortunate combination of prolonged illnesses and injuries, I was not able to compete at the level required, and was cut from the team. I found UMBC’s club team when I was at one of my lowest points emotionally. And in finding the club team, I found a new sense of purpose and worth. When I thought I had lost my only chance at running competitively, I found a team that was as dedicated to the run as I was. I found a new team and a new running family. Whenever I pull on the club’s singlet, I am proud to be competing for UMBC’s club team, and to be toeing the line with my teammates.
Representing a team and competing in cross country and track meets does not have to end when you graduate high school. Regardless of your speed, skill level, or running experience, you can find a home with a running club. Everyone is welcome to a club team.
If you’re interested in running and competing after high school, check with your school’s club webpage, search Google or Facebook to see if your school has a running club. Chances are, it will. If not, start your own!!!
And now for a shameless plug… if you’re interested in UMBC’s running club, check out our website http://umbcrunningclub.weebly.com/ or our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/UMBCRunningClub/.
If you’re headed to UMD, check out their website http://www.terprunners.com/ or their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/2200027858/.
Here is a poem penned by the Terp Runners, promoting their running club:
Terp Runners go far
Skinniest club on campus
Beats driving a car
Happy runnings, from one MoCo runner to the next!