RSS Feed

The Real Illinois- Entry 1


Four individuals all striving to reach a common goal: get into the best shape that they possibly can for their upcoming cross-country seasons. Sound familiar? How about adding a twist to it? Four individuals all striving to reach a common goal: getting into the best shape possible while working 40 hours a week to prepare for a future outside of running. Let’s get this straight – there will be no Olympics in our future, no American records or Collegiate records in the 1500, no scholarships or fancy, sponsored facilities, and finally, no cabin in the woods to focus on one thing and one thing only: running. Running is our hobby, not our future. It is an activity that we participate in to give our minds release and our bodies freedom from our claustrophobic lab stations or cubicles.

But is that all? That sounds like a pretty bleak way to look at the situation. However, work is only temporary, as the four individuals being profiled will be back to school in the fall to focus on grades, but also, their own championship seasons. And that is the real reason why we are putting our efforts into this extra-curricular activity outside of our jobs. We all have the chance to be competitive and be leaders for our respective teams. For one of us, that team represents DIII Trinity University. For the rest of us, the team is the University of Illinois Cross Country Club. All of the miles and extra efforts that are currently being put in will hopefully yield trips to Nationals and possibly a national championship.

So, here is what is going to happen. We are going to follow along in the lives of these four individuals as they go through their daily lives. There will be weekly updates to keep track of current fitness and emotional states. This project will go through the course of the season and hopefully will provide some eventual insight into the lives of the worker by trade and runner by past-time.

Now, here are the individuals:


Andrew Gazdziak

PRs: 400- 58.3 3000- 9:10 3K Steeple- 10:14 5000- 15:57 8000- 26:47

I’m Andrew and this summer I’m working and living in San Diego, CA. I’m 21.

This summer is the get fit plan 2.0. Let me tell you a little bit about the get fit plan. It all started last summer. I had taken a season off of running to focus on school and by the time summer rolled around I was working on getting back in shape. There were some obstacles at first, like a badly rolled ankle, but I wasn’t fully committed until one night. To make a long story short let’s just say after a night out I bought a pizza on the way home, consumed it, and then proceeded to buy ANOTHER pizza at a store closer to home (I didn’t eat it). The next day I decided enough was enough and I was going to take this thing seriously.

 I’m on the get fit plan: summer 2012 edition. This summer I’m up against snakes, hills, and moms running with kids in their strollers (seriously, they are everywhere). Highlights of this plan are: Core / mobility 3x a week, leg strength, lunges, and the all-important phase 12. So far it’s been going great and I hope to keep it up. My goal is to train hard this summer and to be a contributing member to the team this fall, through both my leadership and as a member in workouts and races.

One of my favorite memories of cross country last fall was the Nationals weekend in North Carolina. The weather absolutely beautiful – late fall but still a little warm, the perfect racing weather. Race day was the perfect fall day. That time between the men’s race and the awards were some of the most anxious minutes (hours?) of that season. I wasn’t sure how the men or the women were going to place. When I found out the girls had taken first I was SO excited – maybe even more excited than when the men’s team won – it was such a surprise. I hope to never forget that feeling. That whole trip was a fantastic one and I really ended the season on a high note.  I’m excited for XC this fall and I’m looking forward to being back on campus for my last year with the Cross Country and Track clubs.




Henry Wolf

PRs: 400- 58.2 1500- 4:14 3000- 9:24 5000- 16:29 8000- 27:47

Hey Gang, I’m Henry. I am a Civil Engineer studying at the University of Illinois. This summer I will be working in downtown Chicago at HDR Inc. At work so far I’ve been doing a lot of CAD (Computer Aided Drawing) in MicroStation, specifically labeling striping, signage, stations, and temporary pavement for MOT (Maintenance of Traffic) plans. This applies to my future by giving me valuable experience on transportation engineering. I hope to eventually use this experience to help me decide between structural and transportation engineering, and to assist me with my goal of designing bridges. Ultimately, I would like to earn a Master’s Degree and be a Structural Engineer; focusing on bridge design, retrofitting, and structural health monitoring.


I run for the Illinois Cross Country Club which is currently the reigning National Cross-Country Champions on the men’s and women’s side for NIRCA (National Intercollegiate Running Club Association). I am the Home Meet Coordinator for the Club team while also being Co-Director of the Engineering Employment Expo, the largest career fair on campus. For the summer, my plans are to stay healthy, improve my form, become stronger and sustainably run 60/65 miles a week. This will help me to achieve my goals for the upcoming semester which include staying healthy, being a good upperclassman leader, running 26:30 8k, winning Nationals, be in Group 3, and beating Zach Boehmke.

Outside of running, I play the guitar and banjo and listen to way too much Red Hot Chili Peppers and my heart is set on one day meeting and courting Dianna Agron.


What a beaut.



Jackie Newell

PRs: 6k- 23:51, 3k steeple chase- 12:04, 1500m- 5:04

My name is Jackie Newell and I am from Frankfort IL. My main goal this summer is to get into really good shape for cross-country season in the fall. I am a rising Junior at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX and I will be one of the captains this fall. In track, I am very devoted to the art of steepling.


Jackie doing it big

When it comes to running, I’ve always been very disciplined. I trust coaches and I do everything in my training plans. I had a rough Sophomore year despite having a really strong summer of training. That is why I decided to add supplemental training to my summer program. I lift weights 3 days a week and am on a high protein, low fat “runner diet.” I hope that adding these two new elements will help me achieve my goals and bring me to the next level in competition. That next level is of course qualifying for Nationals with my teammates.


While I wish I could just devote this entire summer to training, I also have other things to do. I have an internship at Silliker Food Science Laboratory in Chicago Heights. I basically prepare various food samples to be tested for Vitamin content or other nutrition labeling. Since I am a chemistry major, this job will prepare me for the career I hope to one day have in nutrition and food science. Working full-time and training can be pretty tiring at times, but I think it ultimately helps me. I like being on a schedule, and by working everyday I am forced to schedule my runs and lifting times around my 8-hour work day.
If you’re interested in reading my training log here is the link-



Zach Boehmke

PRs: 400- 53.8 800- 2:01 1500- 4:17 8000- 27:52

Hi all, my name is Zach. This is my blog and to tell the truth, I was definitely inspired by The Real Maine to do this. What those guys (Erik Van Ingen, Riley Masters, Mark Feigen, and Kyle Merber) did was awesome to witness, but I think what we can accomplish with this project is to show another view inside the runner’s world. For the 99.9% of us who do not have a future in running, most of us are lucky to have a future elsewhere, but first we need to put in the work inside the classroom and the office.

Currently, I am working for Takeda Pharmaceuticals as a Medical Writer in the Clinical Sciences department. While I do not play on having a future in pharmacy, I think this internship will provide me with essential insight and experience in the medical field.


Also, this summer I am taking an Organic Chemistry class to catch up to the rest of my class. I am a Molecular and Cellular Biology Major with aspirations to go to Medical School in a couple of years. I really have big plans for the future and I hope these are the stepping stones I can take to help me reach them.

I am also President of the Illinois Cross Country Club which Henry and Andrew are also a part of. As mentioned, we are reigning national cross-country champions and we have never lost a race on the track as a team. Going into college, I definitely had a skewed vision of what club running was. I thought it was a group of people who just showed up to keep in shape, but it is so much more than that. We are a unified force who are also a family, which is a really unique quality to our team. Because of my status on the team, I want to be a leader more than in just a vocal sense. Our last president, Aaron Silver, was 5th overall in 24:41 at NIRCA nationals and also holds a 3:52 1500 to his name. He was a leader in all senses of the word and that is what I strive to be. I hope that the work that I put in this summer will allow me to lead by example on the course and off. Currently, I have modest personal bests that which I hope through consistent training this summer I will be able to improve on and help out my team.


There is more to this story. It will be a constantly evolving process, focusing primarily on these four individuals, but with plenty of cameos from the friends who are helping us support us on our journeys and their own journeys. I hope that anyone who reads this, runner or non-runner, will be able to take something away from this when the project ends. Until next time…

“Methinks that the moment my legs began to move, my thoughts began to flow.”
– Henry David Thoreau

**If necessary, I can rename this project. I am not sure about copyright or  if that would even apply in this situation. If anybody knows, let me know and I can make up a new moniker.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: