Baseball may be my favorite sport to watch (by far); however, it is certainly not my preferred athletic competition to partake in.
Going into high school. I was given an ultimatum by my mother - I had to get involved in at least one sport, so as to get me out of the house and out of her hair. My father played golf when he walked the halls of our local high school, so I was naturally nudged down that path. But, I kinda, sorta, accidentally on purpose missed the bus for tryouts and, thus, the fairway wasn't to be the way for me. Still, I wasn't out of the woods and had to make a selection. That's when I remembered I always did pretty decently with the gym class mile in middle school, so cross country seemed like an okay fit.
13 years later, I still run on an almost daily basis and I'm a track coach for the school I work for.
In fact, I competed in a local 5k (5,000 meters/3.1 miles) race to benefit Big Brothers/Big Sisters, just this morning. Running is my emotional outlet, my hobby and satiates my competitive tendencies, Of course, I never have been and never will be anywhere near as good as an Olympian, like Edward Cheserek or Kara Goucher here, but there will always be races to run and personal goals to attain.
However, competitive running is not exactly a mainstream sport and the only time it ever gets any significant, national attention is during the summer Olympics or the Boston Marathon. As such, it's always saddened me that collecting my favorite competitive sport via trading cards is darn near impossible. There just aren't many options, except for stray SI for Kids singles (like above) or...
...Olympic-centric sets, runners don't get immortalized on cardboard rectangles often enough.
Even still, last night I decided to finally go ahead and declare an official collection of runners and running-based cards. Luckily, I already had a few strays strewn about my miscellaneous, odds and ends box in order to provide a quick jump-start. My only rules are that the cards have to depict the athlete competing in a running event and it doesn't matter which one - marathons, sprints (like Wilma Rudolph above), steeplechases, etc. That said, I am not seeking out cards that show track competitors high jumping, pole-vaulting or any other field event. This collection is running only.
It doesn't matter what level the competitor is either. Olympians and professionals are all well and good; but, amateurs and collegians, like Notre Dame's cross country star Molly Seidel are equally welcomed.
As an aside, I had the good fortune to compete against the Fightin' Irish CC squad on their home turf when I was in college. Although, I used the term "compete" quite loosely, seeing as they ran circles around small-school me. Still, getting to run an 8k around the Notre Dame campus was an exhilarating experience.
I have always been a distance runner since the first day I threw on some short shorts and bandied about the town (much to the horror of the locals). In other words, my focus has always been in distances longer than 400 meters, aka one lap around your standard track. I've dabbled in sprints and was threatened with hurdles once, but I mostly stayed in that training regimen. So, naturally, I'm drawn to cards which feature marathoners, cross country competitors and the like.
With that being noted, since running cards are so very limited, I'm not about to discriminate against sprinters though:
Especially when the cards are as awesome as this die-cut insert of three-time Olympic gold medalist Tyson Gay from the 2011 edition of UD's Goodwin Champions. While SI for Kids sets dominate this post, multi-sport releases sometimes produce a few "hits" as well. Anyway, sprinters are runners too - the only difference is that they run much faster (well... and shorter too).
Oh and hurdlers totally make the cut too:
Athletes like Arizona State's Lynda Tolbert have always amazed me. I can barely walk and chew gum at the same time without ending up in a tangled heap and these people can run at a dead sprint while striding over waist-high barriers smoother than silk. A good hurdle race is truly a sight to behold.
Of course, I'll always go back to distance running as my favorite sub-division of the sport. I mean, I suppose it's no different than a Little League second baseman feeling compelled to hoard cards of Hall of Famers like Ryne Sandberg or Robby Alomar.
On that note, Roger Bannister is a comparable figure. After all, the British runner was the first man to complete a timed mile quicker than four minutes, a mark often considered humanly impossible. Nevertheless, on May 6th, 1954, Bannister blazed through the distance and into the history books with a time of 3:59.4 at a track meet at Oxford University.
If running had a Hall of Fame, Roger would be a first-ballot honoree.
While Roger will always be the first, since that time, several upper echelon competitors have broken the hallowed four minute mark. A small, select handful have upped the ante by doing so when they were still in high school.
American Alan Webb was only the fourth person ever to break the four minute mark while still having to navigate cliques and remember a locker combination. I bet he was never late to class though!
As a senior in 2001, Webb shattered the 36-year-old national high school record by running a 3:53.43 mile and went on to set the current American record for the distance a few years later with an eye-popping 3:46.91 mark. These days, Webb is still competing at a top level in triathlons.
Seeing as my swimming abilities are limited to doggy paddling and drowning, my respect for triathletes is through the roof.
So, there you have it - my blossoming new collection is off the line cleanly and running. Obviously, I don't have too many right now, but it's a decent start. Surprisingly, there are several big names out there to obtain who have appeared in stray sets here and there that I'll be chasing - Usain Bolt, Jim Ryun, Bernie Lagat, Jesse Owens, Lasse Viren and running demi-god Steve Prefontaine.
Some of my targets
Once acquired, this will be the only chance to say that I've chased down Bolt!
Meanwhile, I absolutely exhausted from running straight into what felt like hurricane force winds, so I'm going to call it a post here and go lay down. If anyone out there reading this has a few runners clogging up their trade box, I'd be happy to take them off your hands; I can't imagine there's a lot of competition for those kind of cards.
Then again, I do love competition - I mean, after all, that's why I run.