Imagine the Penn State football team or any professional sports team not playing for three weeks in the middle of the season. It seems ridiculous, but in collegiate cross-country it is not only the norm, it is what the runners and coaches actually prefer.
The Nittany Lions’ cross-country team will have to wait until Sept. 29th to run in their next meet, which will be the Greater Louisville Classic.
This will be exactly three weeks from when they ran their dominating performance in the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational.
Coach Beth Alford-Sullivan sees this down time as a chance to put in good training for an extended period of time.
“One of the strengths of being a distance runner is they really enjoy the actual time to have a good series of training cycles…without an interruption from racing were able to log some really good miles and get some quality stuff in,” Alford-Sullivan said. “When there’s racing involved, you kind of have to back down on the quality and the quantity of things, so to be fresh to race.”
The runners on both the men and women’s sides share these same sentiments and look forward to their training workouts.
“I like it personally, because I feel like I’m not right where I want to be with my training, so I feel like I can increase it,” said sophomore Abbie Benson.
Benson is a member of the women’s squad that has won their first two meets this year and is currently sitting third in the Mid-Atlantic Regional rankings.
She said the women are not worried about the break possibly killing their momentum, as long as they don’t let that thought enter their minds and they keep training hard.
The Lions are coming off meets two weekends in a row to start off the season, and the runners are looking forward to being able to rest their bodies from the demands race days require.
“Despite the fact that we’ll be working hard, racing is the hardest thing that you could do. It takes the most out of your body,” said senior Thomas Luff. “So when you race back-to-back weeks you definitely feel it.”
Alford-Sullivan is also looking at this down time as an opportunity for the athletes to also get into a grove with their studies and establish a good balance between school and running heading into the more important meets later in the season.
“We’re not missing any classes. We’re not changing up the routine at all, so they can kind of find their pattern for the semester and get things going,” said Alford-Sullivan, referring to her athlete’s academics. “The months of mid-October through mid-November are real crunch time, so this is good prep time to be ready for that time.”
A concern for any team with a three-week break in competition is to not lose focus and to not become complacent.
Luff and other runners on the team stay focused during these long breaks in action by having a tunnel vision like mindset.
“I just try to think about it from one workout to the next workout, and trying to run those pretty well,” said Luff. “I don’t know if it’s necessarily good to think so far in advance so you try to keep your mind on the next task at hand.”
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