On Saturday, 65 students, myself included, will grudgingly leave the warm confines of our beds, don running tights and various thermal layers and quickly pack a change of clothes before heading out into the cold. We’ll then meet, still slightly disoriented, at the Cube before 5 a.m. to start the University of Michigan Running Club’s 8th annual Race Across Michigan.

When I first entered the University in August of 2012, I knew I wanted to keep running. Through high school, running provided a tight-knit community of friends and a good way to vanquish the seemingly daunting decisions that high school students face. Though I loved the community, I wasn’t sure that I would continue running competitively in college. As a reliably mediocre runner who never entertained the idea of running at a Division III school, winning the slow heat at track meets didn’t feed such a fantasy.

A sub-par coach through high school further fueled my dissolution. Through the fortune of never being injured himself, he expected that his athletes would remain injury-free, too. This expectation, in some respects, created an unnecessarily stressful experience for our whole team.

During welcome week of my freshman year, though, another student piqued my interest in the Michigan Running Club, MRun for short. I dithered about first semester, attending some races and social events, but not really having my heart set on the club. At the beginning of my second semester, I heard about RAM.

Every year, MRun runs 184 miles across the state of Michigan from Detroit to South Haven along Michigan Avenue in less than 24 hours. We run it as a relay, i.e. groups of runners run in 3 to 15 mile shifts. For the last five years, we have raised money for the Special Olympics of Washtenaw County. Though our event supports an exceptional organization, it interests me for another more important reason: It encapsulates the very ethos of MRun.

In the 36 or so hours that we are together, crammed in University vehicles, we have a unique and otherwise unequalled opportunity to better MRun’s community. MRun includes DI talent to hobby joggers. We welcome students who want to train for varsity tryouts, students who want to get a run in once or twice a week to stay in shape and everyone in between. While there is occasional tension between the opposite sides of this spectrum — how couldn’t there be? — each individual has quirks that make up the fabric of our club. Everyone has their unique place in our community. Our strength lies in our familiarity with each other and RAM is an essential building block of that familiarity.

RAM was where I learned to unconditionally appreciate the imperfections of MRun. While we all have different goals in our training, and all want something different from the club, we come together for the entirety of RAM to work toward one goal: to safely traverse the state of Michigan as a team.

Throughout RAM, each participant goes through differing levels of intense affection and distaste for each other. Though we are tired, both mentally and physically, and by 3 a.m. mostly just asleep, the fact that we manage to complete RAM is not only a testament to our individual endurance, but the power of shared resolve among what MRun truly is: a family.

Danny Sack can be reached at sackd@umich.edu

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.