Running is year round pursuit for Buena Vista athlete Aaron Roberts

(Aaron Roberts is a cross country and track athlete at Buena Vista University. In June, 2012, he talked about his high school and collegiate cross country running).

The sight of Aaron Roberts racing up and down hilly streets and sidewalks was part of the daily summer routine for his Audubon neighbors. The 19-year-old was staying in shape for his sophomore seasons of cross country and track at Buena Vista University.

Roberts, son of John and Jan Roberts, quickly established himself as a top runner on BV’s cross country squad. His time of 27:28 at the 2011 conference championships was the third best in school history for a freshman.

He had found success as a ninth grader, but didn’t get serious about the sport until he was a junior.

“I played football my eighth grade year and figured out I was kind of small to do that,” said the five-foot four, 108-pounder.

“I decided I would try cross country and I was the number one runner on the team my freshman year without really trying. My friend and I had decided to try out for it for fun.”

In his junior track season he qualified for state in the 2-mile and placed fifth. “That’s when I got extremely motivated to work really hard for my senior year in cross country.” The work paid off. The three-time All-Conference runner placed 11th at the state meet.

College athletics wasn’t part of the Iowa State-bound Roberts plans until a letter arrived from Buena Vista University coach Jeff Brennan inviting him to join his team. Roberts changed his course to BV where he is majoring is biochemistry.

“Running is something everyone can do. It’s just you and the road or the trail out there. It’s a way to get away from things. It’s different than contact sports. For me, it’s a way to get away from hardships in life. I just enjoy it,” Roberts said.

When running a route in practice, often alone, runners have time to think. “One day I’ll be thinking about what I’ll have for breakfast. Some days I’ll think about when I’m going to do my homework. Other days I’ll think about my family. I lost my grandpa this past year and I think about him a lot. He’s kind of who I run for.”

Dedication, Roberts said, is the main requirement for success in his sport. “Anyone can do it, but to be good it takes a lot of work. I was putting in 20 miles a week in high school, which at the time I thought was a lot. Now, this summer, I’m putting in 50 to 60 miles a week That’s a small amount compared to what I should be running. I’m easing into it. It was a big switch to college and putting in 80 miles a week.

“To be good you have to kind of make it a job. You have to put in the miles. It really takes a lot of work. It builds up your endurance and your stamina. I’ll do five repeat miles. That’s to build up your speed. It separates out the race so that you don’t run at the same pace the whole time.

“If you always run miles you get into a comfortable state and you don’t want to be there. People will pass you and you won’t have a kick at the end of the race. It’s a combination of the speed work and the miles so that you build up your stamina and endurance and still have that speed throughout the race to pass people and to have the speed at the end, which is really important as well.”

To succeed in cross country, Roberts said, “You have to be able to run through pain. When you a running that many miles a week your legs do hurt. Sometimes it’s tough, but when you work through you feel that much better. You have to have the self confidence to get out there and run. The hardest part is starting. It takes endurance, stamina and it also takes speed. If you are duking it out with someone you want to have the speed at the end of a race.

Roberts said he was “introduced’ to weightlifting in his first year of college. “I wish I had lifted in high school. That really would have helped. I wish they would stress that more (in high schools). I guess people think that if you lift it will make you slower because you will put on muscle mass. Weight doesn’t matter. It’s more body strength and what your body can take.”

Roberts said running allows little room for time off.

“I usually have the motivation to get out there and run. There are days that I’m not motivated, but I get out there anyway. Being motivated helps a lot. You cannot skip a couple of days. One day out of a week is the max.

“Sometimes I find motivation within myself. Sometimes it’s my dad. We do road races together throughout the summer. It’s my grandpa. It’s my teammate (senior Dan Pearson), who is battling cancer. It’s everyone around me.”


Text/photos by Chuck Signs