Picture Pottruck at 6 p.m: bros in muscle shirts pumping iron and girls in yoga pants doing their 50th set of leg raises. Every treadmill is occupied. On the steps outside, a small group congregates before heading off into the crisp autumn evening—meet the Penn Running Club.
United by their passion for running, the Penn Running Club (PRC) ranges from freshmen to graduate students and from former cross–country champs to casual joggers. PRC is a competitive sports club open to recreational runners. “It’s really what you make of it,” says Harry Prevor (E’19), president of PRC. “We have people who attend every practice, and others just show up as their schedule allows.” Prevor emphasizes that PRC is always taking on new members. The club has a core of 20–30 members who compete at meets around the country through NIRCA (National Intercollegiate Running Club Association). Currently, they’re gearing up for cross country nationals in Michigan.
I gave PRC a try on a Tuesday morning at a bleary–eyed 7:30 a.m. The group divided up, the fastest three heading down the Schuylkill and five others (myself included) going to Woodland Cemetery. We ran one–mile loops around the periphery, weaving among trees on a dirt trail. At the start, it was definitely a notch above my comfort pace. Then, the group started making light conversation, and, somehow, four miles flew by.
As a gym goer and recent running convert, I’m not used to exercise as a social activity. Normally, I lace up, blast music, and take a solo jog. I’m guilty of checking my phone halfway through runs or pausing to respond to a snap. Running in a group challenged me to pick up my pace, tune out technology, and focus on the present.
PRC isn’t only for distance runners. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, PRC holds sprint practice at Franklin Field. John George Armstrong (C’18), the sprint captain, started the team back in freshman year. Tuesdays are the biggest practice days, when some of the long–distance runners come out to switch things up. I showed up to practice Thursday evening, unsure what to expect. I learned how to hand off the baton while running full–speed, a feat we practiced several times. Then we ran 200–meter relay sprints. Not going to lie: it was intense. My lungs were on fire, and my quads were sore for a few days.
While many of the members ran track or cross country in high school, it’s welcoming for all levels. Catherine Foster, a first–year in the Master of Social Work program, started running her freshman year at Penn State. Now she’s training for the Philadelphia Half Marathon and competing in the 6k championship race at NIRCA nationals. Foster, the Chair of Social Planning, loves PRC for the community, “It’s a lot smaller than the one at Penn State, but we’re close knit.” Aside from running, they’re a social bunch. At practice, everyone was getting hype for the Fall Homecoming Formal.
The sun now sets at a depressing 4:35 p.m., and Midterm Season 2.0 is coming into full swing, so finding the time and motivation to exercise is no easy task. Navigating Pottruck can be a stressor unto itself. For those days when you want to reset and push yourself, Penn Running Club offers an encouraging alternative.
Penn Running Club Practice Times
Long Distance (meet at Pottruck)
7:30 a.m. Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
6:00 p.m. Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
4:30 p.m. Friday
Sprint (meet at Franklin Field)
6:00 p.m. Tuesday Thursday
Three Races to Keep an Eye On:
Philadelphia Marathon, Half Marathon, 8K on November 19, 2017: Coming up soon, but there are still some spots left!
Love Run Half Marathon, 5K on March 25, 2018: For those looking for a reasonable training goal, far enough away to start training for.
Broad Street Run on May 7, 2018: The fastest 10–mile run in the country, a straight shot down Broad Street, so popular there’s lottery system for admittance to the race.
Schuylkill River Trail: The most popular option—every other runner seems to be wearing Penn gear. Run down either Walnut or Spruce, go down the stairs on the bridge and you’re at the trail. For an easy five mile out–and–back head to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Otherwise, continue down past Boathouse Row, to the most picturesque part of the trail. Watch the regatta row past. Try not to document the experience on Snapchat.
Woodland Cemetery: The closest option—right off 40th street—if you can handle running over graves. Follow the peripheral trail for a perfect one–mile loop. Open sun–up to sun–down. But be careful: “Getting locked in isn’t fun,” says Harry Prevor (C’19).
Wissahicken: The farthest but 100% worth it. Five miles down the Schuylkill River trail or a short SEPTA trip away. Beautiful woodlands and trail running.