Nov. 12, 2013
By Staci Gasser
The fourth New Jersey Meet of Champions winner to come to the University of Notre Dame since 2010 has taken the first few cross country meets to get used to the collegiate level of competition.
Freshman Chris Marco's first race was the National Catholic Championships, an eight-kilometer course on the Notre Dame golf course, which he ran in 27 minutes and four seconds. It was a shock to him, to say the least.
"Coming from a track background and having had trouble with cross country in high school, it's needless to say that the 8K was completely different and much more challenging than anything I've ever experienced in the past," Marco explains. "To put it simply, I was dying the entire way; it was far from pretty. It was painful and it sucked."
At the Notre Dame Invite, Marco felt more confident and improved his time to 26:56.
"That race felt much better. It made me realize that I can contribute to the varsity team next year as a sophomore," he says.
The Toms River, N.J. native never had to face the type of competition he does now. Marco says if he and his high school teammates wanted to race with people of the same ability, they would have to travel or wait until state or nationals.
He knows from here on out, there won't be any more easy races, and he will have to race smart every time to get the top again.
So, he's upped his mileage in his training regimen by 15-20 miles--running between 70 and 80 per week--and does two hard interval workouts a week. On Sundays, he and many of his teammates run around 16.5 miles on scenic dirt roads that extend into Michigan.
"The volume and intensity of college versus high school training is so much greater, and will surely pay off for the upcoming track seasons," Marco says.
Marco proclaims to be a much stronger track athlete, and cross country is a way for him to prepare his body and mind for the spring. Once track season starts, he'll start running on the track and doing faster workouts to prep for the speed that the track season requires.
He's more of a middle-distance runner, so he enjoys the 800-meter, 1500-meter and 3000-meter races the most.
"Being more middle distance oriented, I sure don't enjoy racing 8k and 10k, but I'm finding that with such a great group of runners, I can learn to like it enough to give it my all for the team," Marco says. "The one thing I do like more about cross country than track is that for me, individual place doesn't matter one bit, as long as the team comes out on top. But when it comes down to it, there's nothing I love more than the intensity and speed of the track."
Marco started cross country and track in sixth grade, following his three older siblings footsteps. He never had to make himself like running, as he loved everything about the training, racing and atmosphere of the sports.
Six years later, Marco was deciding to run for Notre Dame or Duke.
"Duke is a great school, and I have nothing bad to say about it, but what I felt and experienced at Notre Dame was special," Marco recalls. "There were many factors that I compared between the two schools, but I ultimately chose Notre Dame because of the sense of family and community I felt not only with the team, but everybody I met while on my visit.
"The huge facilities and plentiful programs to help student-athletes didn't hurt either."
Marco soon found out his choice was the right one when he realized he was now part of the community even though his first few days here were not ideal.
"I didn't know where any buildings were, I switched my major after a week, my diet was totally thrown off, I wasn't used to going to bed so late, meeting all these new people, trying to put together a futon in my 100 degree dorm room, the list goes on," he explains. "Everything was new, so there were no comfort zones. All of this combined with a new training plan while we were in a heat wave made the first few weeks incredibly stressful and difficult. I also realized how much I missed home, my friends and my family. But after around three weeks, things began to fall into place, routines began to develop and life was getting better. Now, I'm working out well at practice, and Notre Dame feels like a second home and family to me.
"The best thing about being a Notre Dame student-athlete is that the rest of the team and I are part of a university sports program that holds all of their teams in such high regards. I love the idea of competing for a school with so much spirit."
Marco's goal for the rest of the cross country season is to learn how to race at the D1 level. For track, he hopes to qualify for some varsity races and hit personal record times. In the future, he hopes to help bring the Irish cross country program to the top by doing his part and break four minutes in the mile to become one of the top miler/1500m runners in the country.
"I'm looking forward to amassing a giant stockpile of issue gear, and maybe getting some sweet looking track spikes," Marco jokes. "But other than that, I'm honestly just looking forward to running fast and succeeding as a team, both in cross country and track."