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From an Idea to a Community

I started running my junior year of high school mostly because I had to drive my younger brother to and from practice, and I figured if I already had to be there, I might as well run.

Since I started so late and wasn’t originally that into running, I never considered running in college. But I found that I really enjoyed running and improved a lot in my first year. At the beginning of senior year, I started getting some recruiting letters from D3 schools. None of the schools that recruited me had the major I was looking for, but I started to consider going to a D3 school where I could walk onto the team.

Then, at the end of my senior cross country season, I found out that I had been running on multiple stress fractures — I was out until May of my senior year. I wasn’t able to start consistently running again until July and was afraid of what would happen if I ramped up too quickly.

Because of this, I knew walking onto a team was out of the question.

Since I had only been running for 2 years, I wasn’t too heartbroken about this, but I knew that I had potential in running and that it was something I wanted to continue.

During my senior year my boyfriend was a freshman at Syracuse, and in his spring semester, he joined their running club. They had set practice times, days where they did workouts, and even had the option to travel to track and cross country meets against other club teams. They had team breakfasts and other bonding activities and a running club house where they could hang out.

It had the structure and friendships of a team without the pressure of varsity.

This was exactly what I wanted — something where I could continue to run, improve and be part of a team, without the pressure of committing to a big program where I may be benched after the first week due to injury.

When deciding what school I wanted to go to, I put “has a running club” on my list of requirements. I scoured the websites of every school I applied to, and the three schools I had narrowed my decision down to all seemed to have a running club. Shortly after committing to Ithaca College, I found the Club Sport website and reached out to the running club contact. I never heard back from anyone, but figured it was just because they didn’t check the email over the summer. When I got to campus, I waited eagerly for the student organization fair so I could find the running club and sign up.

After running alone the first two weeks on campus, I couldn’t wait to finally meet the team and start going to practice and team hangouts.

I went to the organization fair and spent about an hour walking around looking for the running club. I made several laps around the room and looked at every single booth, but the running club was nowhere to be found. I finally left after signing up for way too many other clubs and figured I could just reach out to the contact on the website again. I did my run alone that day, then got on my laptop and emailed the running club contact and the club sports director.

After a few days, I heard back from the club sports director to find that the website was not up-to-date, and the running club that I had seen on there was no longer active. I was really bummed, but I continued training throughout the fall. I ran at one of the club cross country meets that had an open race, and Syracuse was kind enough to let me spend time with them at the meet since I didn’t have a team.

I had so much fun racing and being with a team again that I knew training alone for four years was not something I was willing to do. Since there was no club team, my only choice to be part of a team again was to walk onto varsity. Between high school and the club race I went to, I had the times to possibly make it, so I went to the track office to see how to join the varsity team. The coach that I spoke with told me that I had already missed tryouts and all of fall training, so I probably would not be able to join the team that year.

She gave me a sticky note with the distance coach’s contact information and told me to reach out to her about joining the following year, but there was no way I was going to wait from November until the following August to run with another person.

I left that conversation feeling extremely discouraged, so I threw away the sticky note and walked straight to the Office of Student Engagement to learn how to start my own club. They got me in contact with the club sports director, and from there I began creating the Ithaca College Running Club.

Creating the club was not an easy process. I found a small group of friends that were interested in the possibility of having a running club, and I am forever thankful for the help that they gave me. We went through several meetings with the club sports director, recruited members, filled out recognition forms, went to more meetings and finally, by the beginning of my sophomore year, we were officially a recognized club.

There were days at the beginning where no one would show up to practice except myself and the other founders. There were times where we offered to go to a meet and no one signed up. There were times I was really discouraged and wanted to give up, because it was hard work and I felt that no one wanted the club to thrive as much as I did.

I pushed through, and every bit of hard work was worth it.

We now have about 20 members that come on a regular basis and another 20 or so that come and go. We practice 4-5 times a week, including “Workout Wednesday” and long runs on Saturdays or Sundays. When we’re not running, we have team hangouts and bonding activities.

Before every meet we have a pasta party at one of the club members’ apartments, and after most meets we find something fun to do in the area. The Penn State Creamery is our favorite stop, but our impromptu trip to Niagara Falls was fun too! We’ve kept in touch during remote learning through Zoom game nights and Strava challenges. The friendships and team atmosphere are my absolute favorite part of running club.

Another thing I love about running club is the versatility of the races and the atmosphere of the club community. We go to some races with nice bibs and chip-timing and some with hand-timing on an iPhone. Some meets are championship events, and some have events where you eat bananas while you run (thank you, Binghamton!).

At almost every meet we travel to, the hosting team either gives us hotel recommendations or personally invites us to stay at their club’s house. Everyone in the club community just loves to run, wants to have fun, and enjoys meeting other runners.

I’m glad Ithaca is now a part of that.

It’s been amazing to watch how the club has transformed over the past three years, and I’ve loved watching the team dynamic build as the number of members grows. Several members have mentioned how thankful they are for having the opportunity to run club and to have met their best friends through this team.

I’m glad I was able to create this space so people could have a running community from the first day they step on campus. Although the club wasn’t here for me when I first got here, I’ve met some of my best friends and made some of my favorite college memories through the running club.

I’m thankful for the community that running club provides to runners on campus and am confident that the people taking over will help the club grow and do amazing things. I know they will continue to keep running club a fun and inviting space for runners of all skill levels.

I wanted a group of people that loved running and loved connecting with people who also love running. People who sometimes want to push to improve and sometimes just want to run for fun. People who create a space where any runner of any skill level or background can be included. I knew what I wanted, and I didn’t plan on settling for anything less.

If you really want something but it’s not there, make it yourself. Turn your dream into a reality.

No matter how much work it is, I promise it will be worth it.


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