Westmont XC

It’s very odd running a race where almost everyone is 30 years younger than you — the only exceptions being your own teammates one of whom is 31, one 56 and one 73.

Needless to say we could not run together. All are good runners in our respective age-groups, but (aside from the 31 year old) not so good against college kids.

There were 8 signed up for our men’s team, only 4 showed at the race, so we did not, in fact, have a team. So what. We ran anyway.

The invitation from Westmont was addressed to the SBAA (the local running club) and to a number of local colleges — including CalTech, where I went to school ages ago. I noted with amusement that alumni were also invited (So I could run on the CalTech team! something I had neglected to do while at tech for real). I emailed a number of my classmates, and jokingly asked if any would be doing the race. One guy who had been on the tech XC team responded that Westmont always beat them — except once. The air is good in SB. In Pasadena there is a lot of LA smog, and CalTech trained in the smog. More in the 70s than now (and more in the 50s than the 70s). CalTech managed to defeat Westmont at a home meet during a stage 2 smog alert in 1979 — a time when no one in their right mind should be running.

I positioned myself near the back, and found to my amusement that the CalTech team had also positioned itself there, so I introduced myself as an old techer. And then we were off.

First a lap around the track (nice, old fashioned dirt track). Oof. Almost everyone is ahead of me, not used to that. I’m doing what feels right, and that turned out to be ~89 sec quarter, which is about the pace I’d expect to run a flat 5mile race at.

Then a short steep hill. I pass a few people. I feel a bit better.

In spite of living in SB for 16 years now, I’ve never been on the Westmont campus before. It’s quite lovely. Well up in the foothills, the campus appears to be oak woodlands with occasional buildings poking up. We run through this.

I don’t notice the 1mile mark, and am ~10feet beyond when I realize someone is calling splits: 6:04. Mostly downhill or flat so that seems reasonable. The next mile had significantly more uphill, 12:50 at the 2 mile mark. Every now and then I pass someone.

I realize, about this point, that 2 of the guys right ahead of me are wearing CalTech jerseys. I decide I will pretend I’m on the CalTech team since my own team is so scattered and the techers are right here.

The course is a bit complex, but then all XC courses seem to be. The men’s course (8k) is different from the women’s (5k). Sometimes we run a loop in one direction, sometimes in another. At one point, on a section of trail that we only ran once I see a teammate of mine running toward me — in the wrong direction. I think it’s the wrong direction anyway. Surely it is… Where should I be? Was that last turn correct? Must be right. John is known for getting lost and there’s only one person with him, while I’ve got quite a few stretching off into the distance ahead of me. It does provide added incentive not to lose track of the guys ahead though.

I keep passing people from time to time. One guy passes me, but he’s a techer so that’s ok:-)

Near the end now, I pass a techer, and cheer him on, then am right behind the next guy when we turn a corner and there’s the track with the finish line maybe 300meters away — and the guy I’m just about to pass suddenly sprints off into the distance. I have no kick. I run hard, I don’t slow, but I can’t speed up. Age:-) Then two other people (including the techer I just passed) zoom past me as the line approaches.

Done. 54th out of about 70. 32:04. About what I was expecting for a time. I discover that I was ahead of CalTech’s 5th man, so had I been on their team I would actually have been an advantage. And that pleased me immensely.

Then I went over and chatted with the techers, said again that I’d been to tech 30 years ago (and realize that that is true, so old I am). One of them asks me what I do… and a voice from somewhere behind me says “FontForge” — wow, someone at Tech, on their cross-country team recognizes my program and me. Now that really is neat!

The Techer men go for a cooldown run, and I join them. Then we place ourselves to watch the women race. SBAA may have failed to muster a men’s team, but the women’s team is a total contrast. The first 3 runners are ours as is number 5. And that holds true for the entire race. They won, obviously. The CalTech women aren’t as good, but I cheer them on too.

When I told my classmates that I was doing this race, and one had responded that his daughter was now on the Tech team and would be racing. I actually knew one person to cheer by name.

Drea finishes Westmont

Drea finishes Westmont



3 Responses to “Westmont XC”

  1. Drea Says:

    Great Job today George! My favorite pic is of you with the thumbs up! Way to be!

  2. Dennis Says:

    Hi, Mr. Williams,

    Congratulations on the race! I am a current member of the Caltech cross-country team and the rest of the team and I recall you introducing yourself to us at the starting line, which we appreciated very much. We also did realize after the race that you would have been a scoring member of the squad had you been running for our team. I remember having my preconceptions about the benefits of youth in athletic performance dashed as I watched the black-clad SBAA women bound ahead of the pack in the women’s race. The dominance they displayed in that race was truly impressive.

    We hope to see you at another race sometime in the near future and we wish you luck in your future running endeavors!


    Dennis Lam

  3. Slower than most nineteen year olds « George’s Meanderings Says:

    […] this means. Once a year Westmont college invites SBAA to field teams for their cross-country met. Last year our men’s team failed to gel and we ended up with only 4 runners, but our woman’s team […]

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