by Chris Lampen-Cowell, co-founder of Gazelle Sports:
I have run for 47 years. In that time, there have been championships, challenges, major setbacks, stops/starts and a lot of sweat and joy. I AM a RUNNER; not because I run X miles a week or Y minutes per mile, but because I put shoes on, go outside, and move my body down roads and trails. Within that statement, I can really say - I AM A CROSS COUNTRY RUNNER. My identity at a very core level is the cross country athlete I was from 7th grade through college. This sense of self exists 36 years after I experienced it as a competitive athlete. It was renewed and strengthened through coaching my son, Stu, and teams at Parchment schools for seven years. And it always re-emerges each fall when I spectate meets and invites. It is my favorite time of year!
I doubt I am alone with strongly identifying myself as a cross country runner more than other aspects of my life. There is a deep intimate relationship with the cross country experience. Endurance sports require a person to push into and beyond a unique pain. There is a transcendence that exists on long runs. Cross country is one of the few sports that have all the athletes competing as one mass; breathing, moving and sweating while attempting to outlast the other’s exhaustion.
As with other individual sports, cross country combines individual performance with a greater team pursuit. It allows a runner to find success through a personal best time and a team to run tightly together to win a meet without a champion.
My experience was heightened with both individual and team championships. Yet it was not the winning that I remember most. It is the long runs on trails with my best friends pushing each other to be our best while sharing our life stories. It is the discipline of waking up earlier than my peers to run another 6 miles. It is finding my young body becoming able to run and laugh through 16 miles in Northern Michigan with a bunch of other skinny kids. It is the accepting and/or forcing myself to get out and run 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. And It is the memory of the moments my mind and body became one and I floated down the road feeling the lightness of my soul.
I AM A RUNNER - A CROSS COUNTRY RUNNER
Loy Norrix 1978
Western Michigan University 1982