Sunday, October 10, 2010

Beginning on the trail

Grand Marshalls, Mr and Mrs Finanger
I’m going to be doing a series of entries on the importance of trails, inspired by hikes at Holden Village.

XC Team at Parade
This past weekend I was at Luther College in Decorah Iowa, to visit with classmates for our 30th college reunion and also join in a cross country celebration. So, to start off this trail series I’m sharing pictures and reflections from my time on the running trail at Luther.  The person that taught me the most about how to cover a set trail quickly on foot is Coach Kent Finanger.

I was honored to walk in the homecoming parade, where Coach Kent, a long time college health instructor/professoor and cross country coach was the Grand Marshall, along with his wife Lois. Members of the 1985 Division III Cross Country team, along with other Luther runners, were invited to march along too. Following the parade coach Finanger hosted runners in his son's home to celebrate and recognize Luther’s great running tradition.

Some of the attributes that Coach Finanger instilled in his runners include:

1. Be enthusiastic and have fun. He loved to say WOW, FUN, WOW. Coach gave pep talks like no other! Most of us would run through a brick wall for Coach Kent.

2. Work hard. The harder one works, the luckier one gets. Coach provided us with challenging workouts, including hills, long distance, intervals, and fartlek (speed play). We knew there were no short cuts to success.  Those long, long Sunday runs were especially memorable.  Mater of fact, I believe the Hutchinson Family campsite I stayed at during homecoming was in route of one of those 14-16 milers.

3. Set goals and work to achieve them. Coach encouraged us all to have goals, and inspired us during workouts and races to meet the challenges set before us.  He also left us with some great notebooks filled with our times and personal records.

4. Encourage one another. He endorsed pack running with teammates, and running on a teammate's hip. Even when we had bad races, I don’t recall coach ever belittling any of his runners.

5.  Establish yourself early in the race.  Don't hang in the weeds and wait for others to dictate the pace.  Go out strong and be a force from the start of the race.

6. Don’t boast. He encouraged us to let our running do the talking. If anything, he loved to understate to competitors the ability of his teams.

7. Fitness for Life. Coach didn’t want us just to be active on his teams in college. Rather he encouraged to have an active lifestyle that would encourage life long fitness.

8. Don’t give up. A couple of runners testified to having meetings with coach Kent as freshman, and feeling like they needed to give up on running for various reasons. Coach indicated that he believed in them and encouraged them to keep at it. One of these Luther athletes later became a national championship cross country and track runner, the other has dedicated his whole working career to running clubs/events and personal fitness coaching.

Paul Quere (left) Dan Finanger (right)
Over homecoming weekend Paul Quere, one of Luther’s outstanding runners, was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame. In addition to being a great runner and triathlete, he’s had tremendous success keeping the running tradition alive in Bolder Colorado, having coached numerous state high school track and field championship teams and even a few future Olympic athletes. He noted that a good dose of Coach Finanger is transferred in to the coaching he’s been doing with hundreds of athletes over the years. What a legacy!

Personally, Coach Finanger helped me considerably in my running career. I started out at Luther as a freshman, deathly afraid that I would fall so far behind during training runs that I might never find my way back from those Iowa cornfields. By senior year I had become a cross country co-captain and one of the lead runners on the team. Following college I continued to stay active, and even ran a few marathons, including New York and Boston. I continue to be physically active with biking, nordic skiing, running and hiking. Coach Finanger was hugely influential for me and hundreds of others, helping us along life’s physical fitness trail.

Trail rider on bridge over Upper Iowa River
While at homecoming I camped at Hutchinson Family Farms on the beautiful Upper Iowa River.  I was surprised to share the campgrounds with numerous trail riders and their horses. It reminded me of off those great Luther "horses" I was so fortunate to run with over the years.

Kittleson brothers on
Decorah bike trail
It was also a great pleasure to vist with many friends from the class of '80.  Even got in a scenic 20 mile bike ride on trails around Decorah with classmate David Kittleson, and his brother Dale, who rode his newly handcrafted electric bicycle.

Upper Iowa River

1 comment:

  1. Those are some happy trails. I like the strategy of under promising and over delivering!