Author: Sant Kumar
Eric Kleinsasser (senior) was voted SCIAC Male-Student Athlete of the Week for Sept. 11 through the 18. He adds this accomplishment to an impressive resume, which includes being a three-time SCIAC champion. This year, he hopes to help the men’s cross country team achieve its goal of reaching Nationals on Nov. 19.
Kleinsasser runs for Occidental because of the camaraderie that he feels with his cross country teammates.
“What I like most in the team is the unmistakable but wonderfully quirky dynamic that is generally unmatched anywhere else. It’s an accepting environment for someone like me,” Kleinsasser said.
Kleinsasser believes that cross country is a home for young men and women who may feel socially awkward or unaware of their actions. “If there was a sort of ‘runner demographic,’ I suspect a representative member generally would exhibit mild social awkwardness and an associated, innocent lack of awareness. When you get a bunch of those folks together, I think they sort of thrive off of each other’s offbeat personalities. That’s a group I feel that I fit into,” he said.
The competitive nature of the sport, where the difference between first place and third place can be counted in milliseconds, also attracts him.
“Particularly in the case of cross country, my motivation stems largely from wanting to compete against other individuals. Having a supportive team also makes a huge difference,” Kleinsasser said.
His road to success has certainly not been easy. Kleinsasser and the other cross country runners stick to a schedule that includes up to 90 miles of running a week.
“By the end of the summer I had a couple of weeks just above 90 miles, but as we start to bring in slightly more intensity with workouts I’m dropping to between 70 and 80 for the fall,” Kleinsasser said.
Though Kleinsasser spends so much time on his sport, he has not lost sight of why he runs. For him, running is not merely a way to stay healthy, but an activity that brings him immense joy and satisfaction.
“When someone asks me why I run, I usually have a two part answer. One, I love to run. Two, lacking any semblance of coordination and agility, I run because I can’t do anything else,” Kleinsasser said.
He emphasizes the importance of having fun when he runs, and he urges his teammates and other runners to not feel burdened by running, but to enjoy it.
“Sometimes I think every runner needs to remind him or herself that it’s alright to enjoy running. In the fog of a long season it can sometimes start to seem like a chore, but everyone who runs should remember that we’re allowed to have fun. That’s really the ‘net’ emotion that I think should be associated with running,” Kleinsasser said.
One of the ways Kleinsasser has fun with the sport is by having a specific pre-race ritual that he follows.
“As far as the silly inconsequential habits go, I’ll admit to beginning every race day with a peanut butter flavored Power Bar,” he said.
Additionally, he enjoys wearing his running clothes, finding them comfortable.
“I suppose one characteristic I distinguish myself with is an extreme reluctance to change out of my running clothes, unless it’s a really special occasion,” Kleinsasser said.
As Kleinsasser is a senior, he understands that his days on the men’s cross country team are numbered. He plans to keep running competitively after college, though.
Stepping up to marathons after college has sort of been a dream of mine, even back before high school. It would be great to take a year to build up a larger mileage base and give those a shot,” he said.
Kleinsasser and the rest of the men’s cross country team may be seen next on October 1st, at the Pomona-Pitzer invitational.
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