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Running a mile, or 50, in their shoes: Year-round cross country creates opportunities for bonds, friendships between teammates
Rachael Cochran-Page
Antelope Staff
Photo from Lopers.com
Alma sophomore Hilke Brandon says she is used to running I am used to running 40 to 50 miles a week even though she says it sounds like a lot.

Cross-country, the sport known for its long-distance runs. The sport run in rain or shine, over huge hills, through mud and water, and on any terrain imaginable. Cross country is the sport where athletes run for a finish line and a time, with no ball involved.

At UNK not only do the cross country runners run in the fall, they run in the winter and spring. These athletes run year-round because of indoor and outdoor track. But for Alma sophomore Hilke Brandon it is a way of life.

“Between the two seasons we only get a week of rest, where we still run but our miles are cut in half, so instead we run 15 to 20 miles. Running is part of my life; I am used to running 40 to 50 miles a week,” Alma sophomore Hilke Brandon said.

To some that sounds absurd, but for long-distance runners this is the norm. UNK’s female athletes complete 50 miles a week when they don’t have a competition and 40 miles a week when they do have a meet. Most of the miles they complete each week are run together. Some miles, however, if they have a class conflict, they can run on their own.

“We run together. It makes it easier that way. We all try to schedule according to practice times. It can be hard to make yourself run without the rest of the team,” Brandon said.

But does cross country and all this running really help the athletes prepare for indoor track? Many athletes feel that running all the time is easier than getting out of shape and having to work at getting back in shape.

“I feel like if a runner just takes a couple weeks off they can become out of shape. Running year-round pays off because we are in shape all the time. Cross  country season helps us in outdoor and summer helps us for indoor. The results from running year-round aren’t necessarily immediate, but they do pay off in the long run,” Brandon said.

Because the athletes are together year-round, they not only stay in shape, but form bonds and friendships different than in other sports. The team is known for doing “fun” runs for Halloween and Christmas; the team dresses up, completes their practice through town in costumes and usually they keep track of how many honks they get from cars driving by.

“We have a lot of fun together. Because we are individuals creating a team we push each other to be better. If we had to run these long distances alone, it would be hard and probably not as fun. After all the miles we put in together the team becomes more like a family. It is unlike any other sports experience,” Brandon said.

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