Students chase goals with long-distance runs


Photo courtesy of Ava Gonzalez

Junior Lauren Gonzalez runs through the streets of Burlingame.

Ellie Neuman, Staff Reporter

Given that a recorded 15% of the U.S. population participate in some form of running or jogging regularly (according to statista), running is objectively one of the most popular sports in the country. For students, however, running is generally recognized in a very narrow form — cross country and track. But a number of self-motivated students at Burlingame do much of their running outside of school athletics, in pursuit of solitude and a variety of terrain and race options. 

Many of these runners are actively part of the team, but run independently in the off-season, or on the occasional days where practice is canceled. For instance, junior and incoming cross country co-captain Ava Gonzalez makes an effort to run up the steep incline of Trousdale Drive every day that she can. Gonzalez said she enjoys the feeling of personal control she gets on these runs, where she feels little judgment about her pace.

“There’s a really good sense of accomplishment in tackling a mountain like Trousdale and just doing stuff for myself instead of for my coaches or anyone else’s expectation,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez began running routinely over the pandemic and has since competed in a variety of road races with her father. She finds that she runs faster times at road races than she does at track and cross country meets.

“I encourage people to do it,” Gonzalez said. “It’s very confidence boosting, and you don’t tend to realize how fit you are compared to the general majority of people… and everyone is cheering for you, like random strangers cheering for you.”

Sophomore Lucas Keeley, who is also a cross country runner, has trained for and run three half marathons. He generally runs about four days each week, with distances ranging from five to ten miles. Keeley said he finds that running independently helps him gain a sense of personal accomplishment.

“I generally enjoy [running] in the moment and.. …you can say that you’ve done it and it feels good to have done something in that way.” Keeley said.

For some students, the choice to run outside of school comes down to distance. The farthest event offered at track and field meets is the 3200 meters and most cross country races are about three miles. Senior Anya Podkaminer said she prefers running longer, independent races because they better fit her athletic abilities.

“I like running farther distances than cross country has,” Podkaminer said. “So for me, running 13 miles is much more appealing than running three.”

Podkaminer decided not to compete in cross country her senior year so that she could have time to run independently instead. Running alone allows her to clear her head in a way that running on a team with coaches could not offer.

“Whenever I’m feeling maybe annoyed or frustrated about something going on a run or just gives me time to have perspective on it,” Podkaminer said.

Podkaminer has done a variety of long distance road races, both with groups of other runners and on her own, but is ultimately motivated by the feeling she gets after crossing the finish line.

“I feel very accomplished,” Podkaminer said. “I feel like I’ve done something that’s just mine that I’ve worked for, for myself.”

Junior Lauren Gonzalez — Ava’s twin, who also runs for the school teams, specializing in sprints and hurdles — finds a similar appeal to individual running as Podkaminer.

“I feel like for running you can kind of [race] against yourself,” Lauren Gonzalez said. “You can set goals for yourself, and try to beat certain times.. .. and I think that that’s what I really like, just this focus on self improvement.”

Podkaminer and Ava and Lauren Gonzalez all plan on joining a running club in college and potentially training for a full marathon one day. Podkaminer, who will be going to school in New York, said she hopes to compete in the New York Marathon at some point during her college career.