Kyle O’Brien: Running Across the Country
January 22, 2013
When I was in 4th grade I remember seeing a poster in the hallway of my elementary school about Cross Country. I cannot recall the details of the poster but I do remember thinking to myself, “why would anyone run across the country?” It seemed like a wild idea and I did not pay attention to it again. Over the next few years I never thought about running. I just knew it was something I liked to do at night while playing manhunt at a friend’s house down the street.
When I was about 12 years old I was at my best friend’s house riding a bike up and down his 100m hill of a driveway. I must have ridden up it 5 times before finally stopping. And I can remember his neighbor saying something along the lines of, “so he’s not a machine after all!” I did not think anything of it at the time, but looking back at it now even as a youngster I had the drive of being an endurance athlete.
It was not until around 7th grade that I ran the mile in physical education class in a decent time. The exact time is lost in my memories but I think it was something around 6:20-6:40. My Physical Education Teacher took notice of my time and called my house the next day, introducing himself as Mr. O’Donnell, the Middle School Phys Ed. Teacher and Modified Cross Country Coach. He had informed me and my parents that my mile time was impressive for my age and that I should consider coming out for the Cross Country team. With my Dad being a solid runner in Middle School and High School, I am not sure how much say I had in the matter. The next thing I remember is going out for a run in a nearby State Park with the rest of the team. We were not even a mile into the run when I was asking how much more we had left. Running was completely new to me and I was not sure what to expect.
Maybe a week or so later was my first ever Cross Country race. I do not remember anything of the race except afterwards receiving an index card with my finishing place on it. I remember asking a teammate what to do with it. He told me to hang onto it and hand it in to the coach later. I had no idea; this whole thing was new to me. I ended up sticking with running and ran through Middle School, High School and eventually College. I had my highlights, such as being a New York State Section IX Cross Country champion my senior year, setting various school records, and being an All American in the Steeplechase. And lowlights such as getting injured a few times and dropping out of races.
It really was not until college that I had seriously thought about running and how it would play a role in my future. My 4 years running with my college team were by far the best years of my life. Nothing else compares to being around a great group of guys and winning a National Championship. If it were not for running I am not sure how I would have made it through college, literally. My senior year for my Thesis class, Art being my major, my topic that influenced my art was running. Running had literally put me through college.
Throughout college and high school I had always seen beautiful places to run in magazines and on the internet. One of those places turned out to be Boulder, Colorado. Looking at the town and nearby surroundings, it seemed like the perfect place to go. Miles upon miles of gorgeous trails, the sun shining warmly upon the nearby and distant mountains, wide open spaces surrounded by beauty, it seemed like a no brainer to visit the place. So one summer before graduating college I made a trip out to Boulder by myself for a few days. Staying with a friend from high school who was going to CU at the time, I learned about the town and what it had to offer. Pearl Street seemed like a fun place to hang out, and of course, the endless places to run were appeasing.
I remember my first run in town; it was up Flagstaff Mountain Road up to the Amphitheater. Before ascending the brutal road, I made a quick run through the Flat Irons in Chautauqua Park. I had such a smile on my face being in front of these massive rock formations. I thought to myself that this is the kind of place you only see in magazines. I was in such bliss; I did not want to leave.
Fast forward a few years later. I am about to graduate college and I knew, somehow- not sure how it would work out, that I was going to move to Boulder. So in late August my girlfriend (now wife), dog and I moved to Colorado. I ran on my own for 2 ½ months before coming across the Boulder Track Club website. It was not as fancy and modern as it is now, but it certainly seemed like something that I would like to be a part of. One day in December I met with Lee at Starbucks and he told me about the club and his running/coaching philosophies. I just remember thinking to myself in the meeting, “Holy crap, I am sitting across from a 2:09 marathoner. This is awesome, don’t screw it up!”
The next day was my first workout with the team, a hill workout at Delwood Ave. I ran with Clint Wells the whole time, and looking back at it now I know he was holding back so I could run with him. The weeks and months following I knew that this club was something I wanted to be a part of. For the first time in years I was excited to wake up at 6 AM two times a week to workout with people, with a team. If there is one thing in my running to push myself, it is having people around me. Workouts with Laura, Zach, Mark, Chuy, etc. are ones that leave me feeling good about myself, knowing that with them I was able to give a harder effort than if I were alone. Having a solid group of guys and girls to train with makes me so happy. Having this club is what helps keep my drive and determination strong, and we share a camaraderie that not many clubs have. The Boulder Track Club has brought me to places that have left lasting imprints on my life, and I know without a doubt that there will be many, many more to come.