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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Rise and shine runners

    Some cross country runners may be scratching their heads or yawning in the wee hours of the morning at the end of North Cactus Boulevard, but the 6 a.m. runs protect the team from the afternoon heat.
    Some cross country runners may be scratching their heads or yawning in the wee hours of the morning at the end of North Cactus Boulevard, but the 6 a.m. runs protect the team from the afternoon heat.

    It’s 4-something in the morning. Your slumber is rudely interrupted by that nagging alarm clock. The sun isn’t even up yet, but you are, and you’re going running.

    You’re not insane. You’re a dedicated Arizona cross country athlete.

    Because it gets hot enough in Tucson that garden gnomes sweat and cookies bake in your car, the runners on both the men’s and women’s cross country teams are forced to practice early in the morning when the weather is bearable.

    “”It’s really nice, a good feeling,”” senior Robert Cheseret said. “”You are doing what you like and know what you are going to get at the end.

    “”It’s tough, though,”” he added. “”You have to wake up so early in the morning, and that means you have to go to bed at a reasonable time so you can get enough sleep and wake up strong enough to run. It’s a lot harder to do if you have lots of homework too.””

    In order to wake up early, the squad is catching Zs at night long before your average nonrunners.

    When 5:30 a.m. rolls around, the sun is just peaking over the Santa Rita Mountains. When the runners show up at McKale Center, the vast majority of the student population is fast asleep.

    The runners load into vans and go to one of several courses to run, be it Reid Park, East or West Saguaro National Monument, or one of various washes. It all depends on what kind of workout UA head coach James Li has in mind.

    The van rides are very quiet. Everyone is still half asleep. Everyone, it seems, except for sophomore Lou Maturo.

    “”Lou is a fun person and talks a lot, no matter what time (of) day it is,”” Cheseret said. “”He is always cheerful. We don’t know if he is mad about waking up early or if he enjoys it. He is always happy.””

    In contrast, it is agreed that junior Chris Ogle is the grumpiest of the group.

    “”Chris loves his sleep,”” Cheseret said with a laugh, “”so he is always grouchy in the morning. He is a great guy, a great runner, but a grumpy one.””

    When the athletes arrive at their stomping grounds, coach Li sends the teams on their run. The distance this early in the season ranges anywhere from about eight to 13 miles per practice, and they may also work at different paces to improve their times. The squads are running up to a half marathon a day up to six times a week before the better part of their classmates even roll out of bed.

    The objective for running so early is to avoid the heat, but when other weather variables are added, it only increases the intensity of the run.

    “”Coach Li has no problem with us running in the rain,”” senior Eric Chavez said. “”But when there is lightning near, that is just about the only thing that will stop us from running. Otherwise, we keep going.””

    Training for cross country is unfair in comparison to training for other sports, according to senior Ryan Ludwig.

    “”Athletes training for other sports just get lucky,”” he said. “”A lot of them practice indoors and don’t have to deal with the weather, and so they can practice at normal hours. That makes us stronger, though.””

    Around 7:15 or 7:30 a.m., the vans return to McKale Center. The runners then shower and dress in the locker rooms and get treatment. Depending on when they have classes, they may or may not have to hurry.

    “”We accomplish a lot,”” Ludwig said. “”We leave at 5:30, run harder than most people will ever run, we get back and are treated in ice baths, go to class and most people haven’t even woken up yet.””

    Although the teams do have evening practices at times, they just don’t reflect the dedication of morning practices.

    “”It’s what we do,”” Li said. “”Especially this time of year, we do it very, very regularly.

    “”It’s awesome out there.””

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