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Opportunities ‘Running’ Around Europe

Kenny Farris ’12 - Some people look at the world around them and take a picture of it.  Others look at their world and want to build something: a large farm in the country, a castle on a hill, or a factory in the depths of the city.  Each view has its own purpose, and there’s no simple answer as to which action is more desirable.

Farris at Zadar Beach, Croatia

Through my nearly three months abroad, I’ve often looked at the world around me and thought about running.  Even though I’m away from Wabash for an entire semester, I am still a Wabash College Cross Country and Track & Field athlete.  My personal and team goals don’t fade away with a temporary change in location and being away from the team.

Fortunately for me, Harlaxton College has been a great place to train.  Set out in the countryside of England, I can run on country roads nearly void of traffic, a dirt towpath along a canal stretching 30-plus miles, or the mangled network of public footpaths through sheep pastures and small villages.  Harlaxton College lies in a valley between two ridges, and most of my routes take me over at least one of these ridges, if not both.

In foreign cities I search for parks and green space so I don’t have to run down crowded concrete streets for an hour.  In London I’ve twice run in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, using a four-mile perimeter loop as the base for my runs.  My hostel in Krakow, Poland, sat nearby a 2.5 loop around the old city and connected with a river footpath that extended six miles one way without street crossings.

Not every foreign city has good running, as often times cheap housing isn’t close to a large park or green space.  I found a canal footpath in Dublin, but it seemed to be a hangout for jesting alcoholics easily entertained by those wearing running shorts.  I couldn’t explore trails in Croatian woods near Zadar, as signs warned me of potentially active landmines.  Even so, slipping on my shoes on a Saturday morning often works well for a daily run, as tourists and locals normally don’t greet the morning sun and I’m not changing group travel plans.

A running/walking path along Grantham Canal

I’ve traveled three places specifically with running in mind.  In January I visited Iffley Road, the Oxford track where Roger Bannister became the first human to run the sub-4:00 mile.  There I saw not a tourist attraction but rather an active athletics club for the Oxford campuses, pleasing me that such a personal place of pilgrimage still retained its essence as a place to race fast.

I journeyed to Birmingham in February to watch a professional indoor track meet.  Meet participants placed five world-leading marks at the time, but the highlight of the meet was the finishing 5,000 meter men’s race, where Brit Mo Farah broke the European indoor record for the distance with the help of American and training partner Galen Rupp.  The two men provided little flash and remained stoic throughout the race, looking fit.  Simply put, they just ran fast.

March led me to Punta Umbria, Spain for the World Cross Country Championships.  I expected to see a race, spend maybe a little time in the beachside resort, and end by returning back by train to Seville for my return flight.  Through a chance meeting on Ryanair with a club manager in London, I found myself a free ride to the race and back while talking about Division II and III running (which very few Brits understand).  That string of luck would have satisfied me, but at the race I met members of the club, including the childhood coach of Charlotte Purdue, the top European female finisher in the women’s senior race, and briefly chatted with her as she warmed down draped in a Union Jack flag.  I discovered that 11 of the 24 British athletes competing in the race had connections to this club, named AFD, and I watched the race with parents, coaches, the manager, and other club runners.  I definitely could not have planned or expected such chance meetings with hospitable strangers!

With this and my solo training, I can’t wait to return to campus and begin training with the team again.  I feel renewed, refreshed, and more confident in my own ability to find the will within myself to race as fast as possible for Wabash College.

  1. My son is considering Wabash and I stumbled upon your blog. What a coincidence. I studied at Harlaxton via the University of Evansville’s program during 1984. I ran many of the same routes. What a great place. Thanks for your post and for bringing back so many memories.

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