A. J. Windless
Prior to a football game fans walk across the university campus, their bright red jackets against the yellow fall colors.
University Days
There was no internet in those days. Probably the only thing Walsh College knew about me was the results of the Junior Olympics they found in one of the newspapers. I was naive enough to call them and to tell them how my senior year turned out, and then asked what that meant in regards to my scholarship. Perhaps I should have just showed up on campus.  I'm not even sure they could withdraw an offer once it had been officially accepted. After all, they offered me as a junior hoping to get a jump on the other schools. That's the gamble they take. But tell them I did, and as a result the only thing they offered to pay for was half of my tuition. They did say they could get me a student loan and put me on a "work study program" but that still wasn't enough to get me through the first year. As a result five years would pass before I would enter college.

In the mean time I served a  volunteer mission to the Philppines, where for two years the only form of exercise I got  was the walking involved, no running, no basketball, not even any jumping jacks.

I returned home and enrolled  at the University of Utah where one of the first things I did was talk to the track coach. I told him how I did in high school and that it had been five years since I had trained. I asked him what my chances were of making his team as a miler. His response was, "Zero." That seemed a little harsh to me. I never understood why he wouldn't say something like, "One in a hundred" or  "One in a thousand." If I was interested in trying out for his team and I wasn't costing him a scholarship, you would think he would at least want to keep in touch with me. Over the next few years, I would in fact outrun some of his cross country runners at the local road races, so perhaps I would have at least made the cross country team.

I was all on my own. That very first week, after my long lay off,  I ran 5 miles every other day. The second week I ran 7 miles every other day. By the third week it was 10 miles. Then 12, then 15, and by the sixth week I was running 18 miles every other day. At that point I decided 18 miles was a bit extreme and so I began running 10 miles every day, with a 16 mile run on Saturdays, and a nice break on Sundays. It was about this same time that I had a chat with Scott Bringhurst. He had won the Deseret News Marathon, which back in those days was one of the biggest races in Utah. During a motivtional speech I learned that he had run 10 miles in 49 minutes. After his speech I asked him what he did for training and he said he just ran ten miles every day. When I asked him how he ran it, he said that he just ran according to feel. I think that was good advice, and it worked very well for me.

While attending the university I had a very strict routine. I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and read scriptures for 30 minutes. Then I jogged a mile and did some stretching, after which I ran 10 miles. I ran all the way up 5th Avenue, through Federal Heights, onto Wasatch Dr (through the university golf course,) along Foothill Drive, up Sunnyside Avenue, and past the zoo to the mouth of Immigraion Canyon. That last mile was always a beast. It seems like I usually ran about 6:30 per mile towards the canyon, but about 5:30 per mile on the way back. It was uphill and in the morning there was always a strong wind coming out of the mouth of the canyon, but on the return it was down hill with the wind at my back.

One morning after a fresh snowfall I ran up City Creek Canyon, everthing frocked with two inches of snow, an enchanting winter wonderland. There were no tracks on the road and that meant that I was the only person in the entire canyon. What an exhilarating feeling, to know that I had such a peaceful, inspiring snowscape all to myself.

After my run I would return home, shower, and then bicycle back up to the university for classes until noon, after which  I would hurry downtown to start work, walk from house to house as a meter reader, and get off work at 4:30. I spent my evenings studying and usually went to bed at 8:00 p.m., waking up to do the same thing all over again the next day. These busy days were probably the best days of my life. I had goals, and those goals gave meaning and purpose to my life. I was going to graduate and do something with my life. I also had endorphins. Any time you run over an hour every day you are feeling pretty good about things because of the natural endorphins that are released into your brain.

Eventually I started interval work, sometimes at East High School, sometimes at Rice Eccles Stadium, occasionally at Liberty Park. I had always wanted to duplicate Jim Ryun's 32 times 440 yards. I never did make 32, but I did run 28 x 400 meters one morning. One of my favorite hills to run  was "B" Street from 3rd Ave to 11th Ave, just over a half mile long... with an exhausting incline.

One morning the U of U cheerleaders showed up at the stadium.  They had some refreshments with them and at the end of my workout they invited me to have a drink. I was so focused and locked into my goals, knowing that I had to be to class by 8:00 a.m., that I just instinctively declined the offer. Afterwards I regretted that, especially since I had a long standing crush on one of them. Even as they told me how impressed with my running they were, I had bluddered my chance to get to know the cheerleaders. Just for once, I should have been late for class.

(Above photo: Prior to a football game a couple of fans with their red jackets walk across the campus of the University of Utah, headed for the stadium.)

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