As runners, we are always striving, to run and race the fastest times we can achieve. But for many, the last time they got to be part of a team that competed regularly as a unit was back in secondary school or, for a lucky few, at university. However, this experience is still a key part of the sporting life for a dedicated underground of competitive cross-country teams that thrives across the United States. The athletes on these teams come from all walks of life and span age groups ranging from just out of college to octogenarians. Once a year, this tribe converges for the USA Track and Field XC Club Championships.
The 2015 event took place in San Francisco’s idyllic Golden Gate Park, the spot where the Summer of Love blossomed in the late 60s, a stone’s throw from the historic Haight-Ashbury intersection. The Nationals cross country course traversed meadows, forested trails, a dirt track and plenty of sharp hills.
The athletes traveled from all over America to again step into the crucible of competition at the highest level in a dirty and demanding specialist discipline. They did it for the camaraderie. For the fun. For the team. And for a gifted few—to compete for the win.
This is the event in their words.
Photos by Matt Trappe
“These kinds of races are just blood and guts. You blow your top at the beginning and then just have to hang on.” - Teresa McWalters, 30, Impala Racing Team, San Francisco, CA
“We were all athletes, but we’re different athletes. Coxswains, soccer players.. and then in mid-life, finding the athlete again. It’s really fun…you’re seeing all these people who had the opportunities to be athletes young. Now we are those middle aged women running cross country.” - Caren Mangarelli, 45, Bull City Track Club, Durham, NC
“This idea of the recreationally competitive — it’s something unique to the US running scene. Those runners are going to have kids, and those kids are going to look up to their parents and be inspired to run and race.” - Dena Evans, coach for the Strava Track Club, Palo Alto, CA
“There are some really, really elite cross country teams in the country, and we wanted to come out and challenge them. This date’s been on the calendar for two years. It was hard to get everyone to come out healthy, but we did it.” - Mark Yuen, 45, West Valley Track Club, San Francisco, CA
all connected. all the time
“When we train hard, we train hard as a team. Strava makes it so you train as a team all week long. We may only get together once or twice a week, but with Strava you’re always connected.” - Doug McLucas, 45, Boston Athletic Association (3rd place Masters Team), Boston, MA