In for the Long Run – Cameron Mercer ’23

Categories: Blog

Throughout the years, my style and intensity of running has changed a lot. And if you had asked me what type of runner I was, my answer would have changed many times too. Before high school, I wasn’t one. Next I was just a swimmer doing cross training. It wasn’t until later in high school I would have considered myself a runner. But now I have dubbed myself a competitive hobbyist runner.

Running has always been a part of my life. As far back as I can remember, my parents would run races all the time. 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, fulls, and ultras, you name it, I saw them run it. As an eight year old, I actually enjoyed going to what felt like a race every weekend. I really liked running around while cheering my parents on. But as I got to middle school, I started to swim year round, and hardly ever ran. This was the case until I got into high school. My freshman year I tried out for the track team after the swim season ended to stay in shape. That season went fine, nothing crazy. I was a very average first year runner, and wasn’t convinced that I was a runner like the rest of my family.

It wasn’t until the distance coach convinced me to stay for cross country summer workouts that my mind started to change. I decided why not, and started to enjoy running a bit more that summer. Then in the fall I improved a lot and had a lot of fun. However, once the season ended I went back to swimming and felt more at place. The cycle continued again that spring and summer and it wasn’t until my junior year in which it clicked. My times dropped like crazy, I broke 18 minutes in the 5K for the first time and then kept doing it. I was having a blast and I was doing really well. It was then that I started considering myself a runner.

Skipping to the summer before NOLS, I ran my first half marathon in the mountains of North Carolina. It was amazing, and I realized I really enjoyed longer distance running. I then finished high school having qualified for states twice in cross country and once in track. Once I graduated I still ran for a bit, but not as frequently. When my freshmen year here started I joined the running club and ran semi frequently. That November I ran my second half marathon, the Charlotte Half.

The following spring semester, Covid struck. I still ran to get outside, but I was becoming bored of running the same roads and routes by myself. So, I signed up for a Spartan Race and started training for that. Nine Spartan Races (one of which was in Munich, Germany!) and one Full Marathon later, I definitely found my sweet spot in running. In the four Spartan Races I’ve raced in competitively I’ve placed in at least the top 5 of my age group each time; having podiumed twice and winning once. In my full marathon I placed 5th overall, won my age group, and ran 3 hours and 8 minutes (8 minutes away from an automatic qualifying time for the Boston Marathon).

Looking forward I have a lot of goals for my career in running. I’d love to run all 6 of the major marathons (Boston, New York, Chicago, Berlin, London, and Tokyo), to race a full IronMan (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run), and to compete in a Spartan National Series. Next up on my list of big races is a half marathon Spartan Race in Kelowna, Canada this fall. Running has been a huge part of my life and is now an even greater part of my identity. It is my number one de-stresser and I can’t recommend lacing up your shoes and hitting the trails enough.