Monday, October 24, 2016

"Smelling The Chickens"

It is interesting to note the differences in our experiences as distance runners through the decades, despite the overall similarity of our experiences at Penn State going back to the 50s.

When Michael Gross alluded to "Smelling the chickens" on a recent run, I was intrigued.

Turns out he meant that when finishing a run with an increased pace to the locker rooms at the Greenberg Indoor Sports Complex, you went by the PSU Agriculture Department's chicken coops. But despite running workouts at the "Ice Palace" as we knew it, our era didn't have locker rooms there.  The Greenberg Complex was an open air ice skating rink with just a roof when I arrived at PSU.  Walls were put up (but no heat installed!) when the first indoor ice arena was built on the other side of the building.  The building was then turned into the Lasch Football Building when the Ashenfelter Complex was built. It has been changed dramatically since due to obvious reasons.

The Ice Palace, 1981.
The Ice Palace, 1960s.

During the height of the 70s boom in PSU distance running (NCAA XC 10th-1977, 3rd and 4th 1978-1980) we had several locker room and indoor tracks.  These facilities didn't matter in the recruiting, at all.  We took it as a badge of honor that we were able to handle whatever came our way.  I wonder if today's recruits could handle any of it?

  • Rec Hall Locker Rooms - Until 1979, next to the Wrestling locker room.  Never relax in the showers lest the toilets be flushed!   3rd degree burns were possible.
  • Rec Hall Track - Used for actual workouts and time trials until 1978.  Biggest risks included broken elbows on the hand rails on the corners and throat soreness from every single workout there, no matter how short or easy.  Only two 400M runners could run at a time there for time trials.  These were always a spectators dream, like watching action at the Roman Coliseum, blood and everything. People often flew "over the rails"!
  • Ice Palace - 1979-1980s.  I suppose it was really the Greenberg Complex but we never called it that.  Possibly if they had heated it higher than 9 degrees (an actual meet we had was run in 9 degree temperatures!) we could have bothered to call it something different.  We used to dress at Rec Hall for all the workouts here.  This avoided frostbite, I'm sure.
  • Beaver Stadium - The locker rooms for track were here until 1980s.  This was the visitors locker room for football, which were bare cinder-block construction with no heat or amenities of any sort.  I was always ashamed that PSU treated their visitors AND track team in such shabby fashion.  There was only enough hot water here for 1 1/2 person to shower.  It was then cold water for the other 112 people.  Nothing like a good cold shower after a long hard run in the cold, to be followed by the long, windy trek to the then-closed dining hall!
  • State College Area Westerly Parkway Junior High Track - used for workouts and meets (even with Renaldo Nehemiah!) 1977-1978 due to construction at Beaver Stadium.  Distance runners still used Rec Hall locker rooms during this era.

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