What did you dream of doing when you were a kid?
Did you watch Space Jam and want to be the next Michael Jordan, even though both your parents were completely average in height and took one look at you were and thought that your time would be better spent learning the violin? Maybe you wanted to be a Disney Princess without realizing that Disney actually has an extremely cutthroat vetting process for who they choose as Ariel or Sleeping Beauty, or whatever girls were into when you were a kid?
Perhaps you were a brownnoser in third grade and wanted to be just like your teacher when you grew up – I’m looking at you Dan, you damn tattletale. Or, heaven forbid, you had the dream of being a Gator? I’m only kidding, no one dreams of that.
Anyway, when I was a kid, I shot for the stars. I dreamt of one day running on the perfect cross country course. I know, I know, it’s up there with being Michael Jordan’s heir apparent, but I didn’t listen to all those kids that called me crazy for dreaming so big. And as time went by and I became a teenager and eventually became what some would consider an adult, the dream stayed alive all the way to my arrival on the campus of FSU. (I’ll be brutally honest, I really dreamt of being Britney Spears’s boyfriend, but that’s neither here nor there and not applicable to running at all).
The Apalachee Regional Park, or as anyone in the know would call it, the ARP, is the perfect cross country course. Now, before everyone bemoans me for being bias, you should know two things: I don’t care and you know I’m right.
The ARP exists in the Goldilocks zone of cross country courses. That is to say, it’s a course that’s not too hilly or too flat. It’s a course that offers just the right combination of areas where spectators can cheer you on and areas where you could wallow in your pain and wonder if anyone would notice if you pull off in a patch of woods. But most importantly, the ARP is faster than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking competition.
I remember chiefly two things from my recruiting visit to FSU, which in no particular order were, driving past Sorority Row and going to the ARP and listening to Coach Braman tell me how he paved the trails with a machete like some sort of Spanish conquistador through South America. I don’t doubt his story, but it is hard to imagine him swatting at horseflies and cutting his way through vines in the same plot of land that is now dubbed the Cross Country Playground.
But here we are, putzing through Field 4 once a week on our cooldown from a workout during “ARP Season”, which to the men’s team is equivalent to, ‘Run Until Your Eyes Begin to Roll Back in Your Head Season,’ and sometimes not realizing the sacred ground we’re stepping on. And every year the course gets better and better (kind of like how you expect your progression in college running to go, right?) and the state of Florida is more and more spoiled with a perfect cross country course.
I don’t know if I’m at liberty to disclose all the new exciting additions and improvements, but rest assured the ARP will be a nationally known acronym in no time. It’s no wonder there’s U.S. Cross Country Championships to be run here and a NCAA National Championship on the horizon as well. See, I’m no expert, but when that kind of stuff happens, it seems to validate my biases about our home course that’s nestled between a field full of cows and a dump.
So yes, you could say that I’ve finally lived my dream of running on the perfect cross country course. True, I never dated Britney Spear (thank God for that in retrospect), but just last Friday I ran my last race on the ARP and our team pulled out the win. Wait, does that mean that I’ve peaked at 22? Oh well, Go Noles!
Bryce Kelley, a graduate student in Integrated Marketing Communications, is a fifth-year Seminole from Hope Valley, R.I. A two-time All-ACC Academic selection in cross country with his undergraduate degree in Creative Writing, Kelley will be providing a weekly inside look at the FSU men’s team throughout the season.