As a lazy child, you watched your father sternly shake his finger at you and bellow, "Son, you are just standing here as the world passes you by!"
Now that you have matured, removed yourself from the path of that shaking finger and made it to college, this admonition still may apply. But the stakes have changed: the world is now a fellow University student, and it's wearing running shoes.
If you were to look up in the dictionary the definition of a University student, the entry would look something like this:
U.Va. student (n): one who runs, constantly
As you stroll around these beautiful Grounds, you may be struck by the ingenuity of Mr. Jefferson's serpentine walls or the beauty of his white columns. Or you may be struck, literally, by a crazed undergrad, flailing her arms as she completes her second 10-mile run of the day. At the University, running is more than a way to keep in shape or alleviate stress: it's as much of an institution as the honor system, and one with steeper penalties for those who don't comply. Everyone is a runner.
I must admit, I fall into this catch-all category as well. Before coming to the University, I faithfully ran a 5K every other day. For those of you out of the loop, a 5K is 3.1 miles, not a cousin of the Armageddon known as Y2K. I considered myself a disciplined runner with a decent track record. (No pun intended.) However, upon matriculation, I realized other runners left me in the dust. They sprinted past me with perfect strides and composure.
Coincidentally, my friend Allison whispered on one such occasion, "Don't you ever want to jump out and grab one of those flawless runners and stuff a cupcake in her mouth?"
At the University, not only do we have runners, we have categories of runners. This may be why we consistently are ranked among the top public universities in the nation.
The first category contains the most frequently-spotted and consequently, the most irritating of all runners. A member of this category is generally a thin, blond-headed girl with pink and purple Nike running shoes, who never seems to perspire or breathe significantly harder while running. She is able to run 6 miles, listen to her Britney Spears CD and chat with friends, without so much as a hair falling out of place. (Be warned: this is neither normal nor human. Runners in this category most likely were created in the same lab that produced an invisible Kevin Bacon for the summer blockbuster Hollow Man.)
This brings us to our second category: The Rock. Members of this group tend to tip the scales at 200 pounds and participate in such sports as football, weight lifting and crew.
These runners typically are spotted trudging up Observatory Hill with leg irons and muscle T's. If you were able to read through the ubiquitous sweat mark on their shirt, it most likely would say "Ironman Contest" or "Pain is glory." Be sure to remain far off their beaten path, as these runners pose more of a threat to pedestrians than a UTS bus.
Finally, a third classification of University runners: the Alumni. This heading does not imply that members of this group actually graduated from the University. It simply refers to the fact that they started running while they were here, and in the tradition of Forrest Gump, they just kept going, despite their age. Some of these runners have skin that hangs down lower than Marky Mark's oversized jeans, but that won't trip them up.
These residents of Charlottesville are determined to continue their run, no matter what their age or eyesight. It is best to simply appreciate the 80-year-old man who has just passed you twice, rather than try to get in his way. He may not see you coming.
After heaping this abuse on the University's running community, I must give credit where credit is due. Jogging is a great way to see Grounds, strengthen your heart and get off your Instant Messenger for 30 minutes. So strap on a pair of New Balance 850s and head off for the nearest sidewalk. And don't forget to bring a cupcake, just in case.