GET IN THE GAME: Runners say their sport soothes the soles

October 08, 2007 11:00 pm
Cameron McAlister, left, Melissa Clark, right, and Kori Rayborn, background, warm up before running a cross country course. McAlister likes training with others, but enjoys the individual challenges of running. (Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr).
Cameron McAlister, left, Melissa Clark, right, and Kori Rayborn, background, warm up before running a cross country course. McAlister likes training with others, but enjoys the individual challenges of running. (Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr).

By GERRY STEELE

Baker City Herald

Running, particularly the long distance variety, is a good way to keep in shape and let off steam at the same time.

Cameron McAlister, a cross country runner on the Baker High School team, started running because it was easier for him than trying to compete in team sports.

"The benefits of running are that you get a good workout, and you feel like you've accomplished something," McAlister explains.

"There are some good social aspects — you can get in shape and you can lose weight."

And running is one sport competitors can continue their entire life.

"Anyone can do it and you can go at your own pace," McAlister says.

He also enjoys running because it is an individual, rather than team, sport.

"That's why I do it," he says. "You don't have to rely on someone else."

McAlister got started running because his stepfather runs and one of his best friends, Erik Robertson, runs on the BHS team.

"Erik was going to do it and I decided to run with him," McAlister says. "And, I wanted to run cross country. That's why I did even though I had never run before."

McAlister likes distance running better than sprints.

"I think I'm better at distance running, and it's easier," he says.

Another reason he likes distance running is because it suits his slender build.

"It's how my body's built," he says. "When I was little I tried to play basketball, soccer and track, and I've always swam. Swimming and running are easier for me, and I like the endurance stuff.

"All my sports are cardio sports," McAlister adds. "The running got my legs strong for swimming. And swimming keeps me in shape for running."

But it's not just about physical fitness — McAlister says distance running also gives him time to ponder things.

"While I'm running I can sort of daydream or think about what I'm doing that day," he says.

The basics of running

The best way to gain the most from running is to prepare yourself the proper way, says Suzy Cole, BHS cross country and track coach.

"From a health standpoint you need to work on your endurance; the full body work," she says.

"A lot of people think it's just the legs, but the upper body has to be just as strong."

Cole agrees that the mental side of running is just as important as the physical side.

"Mentally, running allows you to think, relax and have kind of a quiet time. Everybody needs that," she says.

"Two, you have a lot of self-talk. You have to be very encouraging to yourself," she emphasis.

"You learn a lot of self-discipline. I think a lot of people grow in their ability to believe in themselves by running.

"It's up to you to put your mind in a set that ‘I can do this.' That kind of thinking spills over into everything we do in life," she says.

Cole says the social side of running also can be a challenge.

"You have to be a unique individual to handle distance running," she says. "You can build some strong bonds with other people who run.

"You have to build a positive personality. And, you typically hang out with others who enjoy the same things."

Preparing yourself

Cole uses a specific plan for her high school runners, and that plan can work for lay runners as well.

"When I work with runners the first goal is to go 30 minutes without stopping, at whatever pace you choose. You try to build that base foundation," she says.

"Then you figure out what your overall goal is. The best way once you've decided that is to alternate hard days and easy days."

A typical "hard day" may include sprints and running hills. An "easy day" might include a slower pace and easier course.

"You have to let your body recover," Cole says.

Where you run also can be a key factor.

"There are lots of beautiful places to run in and around Baker," Cole says.

She noted the area around Elk Creek, Pocahontas Road, and the Leo Adler pathway as examples.