Spotlight Series: BC's other Men of Winter

Greg Watch and Tom Hennessey drag themselves out of bed at eight in the morning. It’s Monday, the bane of most peoples’ existence. However, Greg and Tom do not mind Mondays. Monday is an easy day.

Before I continue, let us first clarify what I mean by the word “easy.” Easy for most of us, in terms of physical activity, might be considered lifting hot chocolate in one hand and the television remote in the other. “Easy” for Greg and Tom, Track and Cross Country runners here at Boston College, means eight miles around the streets and trails of Newton, Brookline and Jamaica Plain. This is Monday, their easy day.

Prior to embarking on a journey that could very well kill a large percentage of students here at BC, they apply heat to their moneymakers. These legs, on which their way of life is based, are strong enough to sprint 800 meters in less than two minutes and a mile in less than five. Lactic acid buildup (you know that strange feeling of melting muscle and bone morrow leakage you get in your thighs when you try to run a mile on the treadmill?) does not faze them, or at least not until mile 12. Yes, 12. Every Saturday, the team goes for a nice, long run of at least 12 miles; some even do 18.

“If you actually want to get any better, you have to put in a lot of work on your own,” Hennessey remarks. “Just showing up for practice – lifting and running – gets you about 70 percent of the way there.”

Tom Hennessey Photo courtesy of www.bceagles.com

Tom Hennessey
Photo courtesy of www.bceagles.com

Having a strong work ethic is what allows track athletes like Greg and Tom to get through the rigors of practicing five days a week, and possibly competing on a sixth. The Winter Track schedule has about six meets, give or take a cancellation or two, as well as various trials and tournaments for which individual athletes can qualify depending on their times. Some of the greatest athletes in the world attend these meets, like Galen Rupp, who recently broke the four-minute threshold in the mile and missed the American Record by mere seconds.

“It was crazy to see,” Watch recalls. “It was like watching a movie in a way. You could tell he was going to do something special. It was very motivational at the same time.”

Greg Watch Photo courtesy of www.bceagles.com

Greg Watch
Photo courtesy of www.bceagles.com

Much like Rupp, a proven Olympian, Watch and Hennessey have agendas of their own. As the winter track season draws to a close, the two are eagerly awaiting the beginning of the ACC Championships being held at Virginia Tech and the IC4A’s at BU.  Without a home track to practice on – the team travels to Harvard to use their facility – they must make the most of their time on an actual track in order to prepare for their meets. The Chestnut Hill Reservoir is not exactly a serviceable replacement.

While the hockey, football, basketball, lacrosse, field hockey and soccer teams all have the proper training, practicing and game accoutrements for success, the track and cross country teams at BC are forced to make use of a rival school’s resources. Can you imagine Jerry York and his Eagles having to practice at BU’s Agganis Arena? I don’t think so.

This brings us to another strike against the runners here at BC. As Title IX would have it, no track and field scholarships are offered or awarded to any athletes. As many of you know, this act has cut the funding sharply for men's sports to encourage female participation. What you didn’t know is that the oldest sports around, like track and field, have been the ones hit hardest. While hockey and football enjoy state-of-the-art complexes, Greg, Tom and their fellow runners have to make use of the nearby streets and another university’s track.

They do not complain though. Runners normally don’t. They just go about their business. They do not let the stereotypes of being awkward, skinny, homosexual and mathematically inclined (yeah, they do not understand that one either) get into their heads. Even the label of not being “a real athlete” – whatever that means – does not bother them. Real athletes are not affected by such foolish things; they simply do not have the time.

Greg Watch and Tom Hennessey seem like normal people. They stuff their faces at Mac, enjoy their fair share of Xbox and are glad that the writers of The Walking Dead killed off Lori. Monday through Friday – just like the rest of us – they slave over piles of homework, fight off the urge to become nocturnal like most of our generation and grumble about the sorry state of their hometown professional sports teams.

What you didn’t know, however, and what Greg and Tom will never brag about, is that they run upwards of 60 miles a week, every week, just to stay in shape. These freaks of fitness, and the rest of the Track and Cross Country program here at Boston College, will never tell you about their impressive race times or their terribly painful practices. As humble as they come, track athletes don’t relish in their own success, they shut up and keep pushing; keep running. If they tried to explain what a ­“monaghetti” was, you wouldn’t understand anyway.

 

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