Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pack Running

Running in packs is something we pride ourselves in at Moorestown. It is something I learned at Bucknell from Coach. He had one philosophy above all else – “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

Every runner in every race always has questions going thru their mind “can I keep this pace”, “geez, this hurts”, “maybe I’ll run harder and better next week”. Running in packs helps to get rid of these questions.

In 2005, we had Dan Rinehart, Eric Holaday and Ben Leonberg as seniors who really adapted to that strategy of pack running. They were all about equal in capabilities, yet each had different strengths. They would run together the first couple of miles of the course – using each other as a guide post of where they were in a race. It is always easier to know where you are in the big races at the end of a season if you have your buddies around. They pushed each other to performances (all were sub-17 at Holmdel) that were better than they could have achieved alone. The last mile (and sometimes the last 400 meters) would decide who was better that given day.

I had a similar experience in college with my roommate Lee Edmonds. “Eddie” and I were about the same level of runner coming into Bucknell. Coach put us together as roommates – in my mind he saw something in each of us that would feed off of the other. Eddie and I tied about 80% of our races in college and probably split the rest. Eddie would always start off slowly, but we would always be together by the mile point. There was something comforting about him sliding up next to me “Hey Bic”, “Hey Ed”. If any of those little voices crept into my head about wanting to slow down, I was able to fight them back primarily with the thought that I did not want to let Eddie down.

We also used this to our competitive advantage. I remember running the ECC championships at Belmont Plateau. Mike Glavin of St. Joe’s was right on our back coming up “Sure Kill” the big hill that goes above the Schuylkill Expressway. We worked the hill pretty hard and when we got to the top he was still there. I said in a voice loud enough so he could hear “Ready to go now Ed”. We heard a grunt behind us as we pressed on the flat area at the top of the hill for only about 200 meters and broke free.

I was up at Bucknell this past weekend. While Coach is gone, the team still uses the pack mentality when running. Helping to feed off of each other. Encouraging each other to reach new levels. And making the achievement of those new levels meaningful.

We’ve adopted Coach’s quote for the Moorestown team. We’ve also added another one – “Why run hard? For yourself. For your team.”

1 comment:

David Maver said...

This is a great piece Mr Bickel. I love the end of the quote. One of the reasons I greatly enjoyed XC was because of the raw teamwork that came from what most view as an individual sport.

During the run with the team the other day, I spent a while in my head going over the various leadership and teamwork implications of the punishment should one of our runners turn out to be the mooner in front of flying feather. Only one decision could be made- to punish the entire team. It holds the standard of the team.

I could go on longer about this topic since dedication to a team, the true essence of teamwork, is an important and broad topic. It's also underused in the world and have found only few, select instances of it in such a pure form. Work hard to not let down your team. Look to the left of you and look to the right of you. See your team suffering. Dig deeper for them.

Good stuff. Can't wait to come out and run again.