Q: No team? No problem.

Hey Lauren-

Congrats on your third place finish in the 1500! My friend Michael and I came to talk to you after his third place finish in the 1500, and we really appreciated it. I did have a question in mind for you. I love to run, and I love to race. But this year I’ll be graduating and I’m going to a college that doesn’t have a cross country or track program. What can I do to improve and stay competitive without those school teams?

Blake

A:

Hey Blake,

Most largish cities have sizeable running clubs, some of which have been around for decades.  I’d check online for one of those first since they have built in coaching and race opportunities.  Also, many colleges without varsity teams have club sports, so you might have a team on campus afterall.

Third option would be asking your local specialty running shoe store; a good running shop can be the heart of a town’s running community.  You never know who you can get hooked up with there…maybe even a personal coach that takes an interest in your progress.  At the very least, you’ll find local race opportunities there.  If you are willing to travel to races now and then, you can find all sorts of options by browsing Active.com. Just think, without a varsity program dictating your every move, you will have the freedom to race what, where, and when you want!

Finally, you can get access to really great individualized training programs through several online sites.  Two that I recommend are the  Run Smart Project and Focus-N-Fly.  I know the people involved in those sites on a personal level and they are great coaches.  You are going to have to pay for those services, but maybe you can work it out as birthday and Christmas presents while you are in college!  It would be well worth it.

Just remember, even in the crappiest places on Earth, all you really need to continue training is your body.  All you really need to be competitive is a decent log of how fast you have run up a particular monster hill or around a makeshift rural loop so you can try to beat your personal best next time around.  But chances are you’ll have access to more than that for the next four years.  If you are willing to dig a little, you can find great race opportunities.  Good luck!

-Lauren