The Culture of Runners in High School and College

One of the smallest and most unknown youth culture in the United States is that of high school and college runners. Not ever one who has ever been on their schools track team is part of this culture. It takes an almost over the top commitment to running to be in this group. Being on a team isn’t even a requirement of this culture it is much more important to have the necessary attitude. To be a part of this culture you need to have done a lot of running, know how it feels to race to exhaustion, see no reason why any weather should keep you from running, and be a little crazy.

Many people would think that all runners would one common culture. I would say that this is not true, youth runners have a much different culture then their adult counterparts. Not only are their reasons for running different but what they do while running is very different as well. The people who fit into this group are very different from their friends and peers who don’t share their interest in running. It is extremely difficult to see where these differences come from. It is not clear whether getting into running changes a person or if it takes a special individual from the beginning to become this dedicated to running. What we do know is that in the end you get a person who is normal in every way in most senses but has this other side that is very different from almost everyone else. I, myself, am part of this culture. I ran cross country, indoor and outdoor track for my high school and for my first two years of college and now run on my own. I joined this culture when I was in ninth grade and my gym coach told me I was naturally talented and called the cross country coach and told him about me.

As soon as I was on the team it didn’t take very long for me to become very involved and have fun running. As a freshman I wasn’t that fast but I was giving the effort. I was running five minute miles and two minute eighteen second half miles. It was these efforts that baptized me into the running culture. It made me know what it felt like to run until you had nothing left and then run farther. It is this knowledge that I feel makes me or anyone else a part of this culture. There are a few things that set the youth culture of runners apart from the overall running culture. One of the many differences is that teen runners usually run in large packs, with a lot of conversation and fooling around. Young runners multitask their running. They play games with it, talk to their friends during it, and even go places with it. While adults my run with a friend and have a conversation you will rarely see twenty of them running through the woods yelling back and forth at each other. Young runner also make up a lot of games whether they are things to do while conventionally running or games like soccer that the coach doesn’t know they are doing during their run but it still gives them a good workout. My friends and I would throw balls and Frisbees while running and invented a game we called Shockey. Which was pretty much soccer on ice with tackling.

Youth runners pretty much all run for competition and not for fitness. Young runners want to run in races not to just lose weight like many adults. This means they run a lot faster and tougher generally. To lose weight you can just jog easy but to get in shape to race you have to really push yourself and in a race if you want to win you have to run to exhaustion. It’s a completely different style of running and that is what builds this culture. Youth runners spend their weekends away from home in places that their non runner friends rarely see during their teen years. As a high school and college runner I traveled to places like New York City, Boston, Montreal and Philadelphia frequently and even went to South Carolina and Florida for running. I also trained at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid with world class athletes like Mike Richter. These are things that most teens don’t get to experience. The youth running culture is a small, distinct culture in the United States. I have been privileged to be a part of it. Its members become different then their peers from the experiences they have, from just running, to the places they compete and train. It is a different way of life for today’s youth one which is nothing like the adult stereotypes of typical youth.

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