March Madness always makes me a little nostalgic for my days at Gonzaga. I think about waiting in line for basketball tickets, the Sweet 16 game that we watched from my freshman dorm, conference match-ups, my first Kennel Club parties, watching the Arizona game with my golf team junior year from the floor of an airport bar on the way to a tournament (wearing matching khakis, polos, and Jack Purcell’s), senior nights, Selection Sunday, and many, many more. This week I overheard a co-worker and fellow Zag say, that “Gonzaga isn’t just a Jesuit school; it’s a basketball school.” And since the Gonzaga Bulldogs have been to the Big Dance for the past 14 years, this is the time of year I most often find myself missing the girls who were my running partners from 2000-2004.
Like many, I loved college for the carefree, explorative, awkward, humorous, and enlightening rite of passage that it was. It’s a lifestyle that you can’t replicate and I think that’s part of what makes it special. My “Ophelia years” were probably at their worst in college, but I was lucky enough to find a group of supportive and encouraging friends who weren’t running for purposes of losing weight or impressing boys and we really didn’t even care about times. This was before Garmins, so we didn’t obsess about pacing and we never even hit a track for a workout. It was simply because we loved the fitness and endorphins felt pounding the pavement so many mornings before class.
Colette, Kim, Shantay, and Mary were 4 smart, talented, and beautiful girls that I often called the night before to figure out what time we were meeting in the morning or if any of us had to run instead after class. We had our usual routes: along Centennial Trail to downtown, Peaceful Valley, Browne’s Edition, Manitou Park, the Bloomsday course, the Spokane 1/2 marathon route, and the “other way” along the river, over the bridge and back. Occasionally I’d sucker a guy into running with me if these girls were busy. Like the time my friend Chris joined me and then went back to his dorm and threw up (seriously! and surprisingly this wasn't due to a college hangover). We probably logged around 30-40 miles a week and all ran half marathons in the 1:40-1:45 range, so we weren’t slow, but we had yet to tap into our full running potential.
Topics during these runs included homework, study hours, basketball games, guys we had crushes on and guys we made out with (not always synonymous), being homesick, spring break plans, acceptance into study abroad programs, job offers, and ultimately life after GU. Some of the runs were more poignant, like post-finals runs in the snow, 1st runs of the quarter, and also that beautiful Tuesday morning in 2001 when we got back and heard about the terrorists’ attacks of 9/11. But most runs were just a routine part of our lives and something we could rely on several days a week.
Over the past few years I realize that in order for me to run faster, I need to include different workouts. I can’t go out based on feel, like I did so many days in college. I need to devote workouts to speed, race pace, hills, and recovery. Now because of work demands, busy schedules, the fact my friends and I don't live on a college camps, I do a lot of these workouts on my own. If I were to look back on my training logs from those days, it’d probably give the date, approximate time, route, who ran with me, and maybe what we talked about. But my goals and lifestyle were different then. And looking back, I realize it was just the [running] therapy I needed.
So although I can’t call (not text because I didn’t have a cell phone in college) these girls any day of the week for a run through our favorite parks and neighborhoods, the routine and love for the sport that we shared a decade ago isn’t forgotten. I know that someday, probably years from now, I will care less about training and more about just maintaining a balance of fitness along with life’s other demands. But every March when I think of college basketball, I will remember my times at Gonzaga, the girls who made me fall in love with running, and the miles that made college so special.