My name is Ryan Clevenger and it is an honor to engage in this series where I seek to share my stories, experiences, and memories with you about my running career so far. Through these articles I release I hope to shed light on what this amazing sport has done for me but also not shy away from the pain and hardship that this sport delivers. I am currently a junior on the men's cross country and track team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I competed within the IHSA when I was in high school at Downers Grove North. I had an amazing time while at DGN accomplishing a lot of my goals I set out to reach by being all-state 5x, conference champ, getting my school record in the mile (4:11) and helping to give my school its highest finish (at the time) at state cross country by placing 2nd. However, throughout all of these accolades, I have found that brotherhood and character are truly the treasures that I have gained from this sport and look to touch on in a future article.
"Never forget why you started, or who you started as"- Clev
Today as I was back home I went to my younger 11-year-old cousin's elementary school "end of the school year" play. As I was watching this play his smiles, laughs, and pure joy amongst his friends made me think. When the play concluded he was basically a firecracker full of energy about ready to explode. We walked outside to the car and he took off sprinting, my uncle told me that he runs around this little 400-yard loop. I watched as he sprinted off into the distance without a care in his mind and a smile on his face. This has always been the truest meaning of running for me that I forget all too often.
My running career began in the 7th grade but stems much before that when I would chase my friends around the jungle gym playing tag in elementary school. As I began running into high school my passion to run and compete grew exponentially. In high school, I learned more about racing, training, and myself more than ever before through cross country and track. With each day I became more and more focused on what I wanted to achieve and ran faster than I ever thought I could. As I look back at all I did and all that I accomplished the only thing that stuck with me deeply right now is thinking about my little cousin. He ran with joy, and he ran as fast as he could not get a PR that day, win a race, or perform for those watching around him, no! he just got out and ran and he didn't look back. He didn't think about the pain, pressure or stress that may be associated with this sport because all he was doing is running. As I look back at times of pressure I remember my one of my old high school coaches Will Kupisch (Kup) telling me...
"Ryan, it's simple, it's just a game of catch me if you can"
With each time he brought this to my attention I remembered that I don't run with any weight from anyone or anything but I run free, and with a lot of love and passion. I run for the little Ryan who didn't know anything other than running hard, and chasing his friends around the playground until my body fell apart. That's the Ryan I search for and call on each day I run because he is the one that I continue and will always remember when I become afraid, lost or confused within this sport. Now I'm not sure who is reading this whether you're an athlete going into sectionals and state, or one looking forward to cross country, or just a viewer of Mile split I am happy to spread this message to you. In all things never lose your grasp of why you started and the passion for that leap of faith.