Toughness comes in many different forms, and for the Michigan
men’s cross country team, toughness involves more than just
the physical strains of running.

“You really have to be strong — not only physically,
but mentally as well,” senior Sean Moore said. “Just
the strain we’re constantly putting on our bodies, and with
classes and all the other responsibilities that come with college,
being mentally tough is probably the most important
thing.”

That’s not to say the team isn’t physically tough.
The cross country runners have to run 10 to 15 miles a day and an
average of 80 miles during the course of a week. At a brisk rate of
six minutes per mile, this isn’t a light jog around campus.
Runners need to truly believe in mind over matter.

“You don’t have to run forever,” Michigan
senior Rondell Ruff said. “Pain is for a little bit, but
pride is forever.”

And that pain comes in more forms than just running for 10,000
meters at a time. Watching a 70-year-old man running laps at Ferry
Field, one may think running is a non-contact sport. But college
cross country can be brutal.

Runners train all year, working on race strategies and
visualizing what they want to do when the day of a meet comes. At
any given meet, anywhere from 300 to 400 runners may be starting at
the same time. All of these runners jockey to gain position during
the first half mile, far from field day at elementary school.

“People get pushed, shoved and elbowed,” Michigan
coach Ron Warhurst said. “Kids have gotten run down and
trampled — not severely injured, but hurt.”

And the runners aren’t the only intense ones on the
course.

“Cross country fans are some of the best fans out
there,” Ruff said. “Ten different schools’ (fans)
screaming for their guys, and that’s all you hear running
through a tunnel of people.”

This weekend’s EMU Classic may not be a formal meet, but
it is the final race before the Big Ten Championship. And
it’s a chance for the younger runners — and runners not
in the conference championship meet — a chance to run and
compete. But the Wolverines will still take this meet seriously.
They’re just too tough not to.

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