Just because he runs, Peter Riccardi could be considered unusual. Not many college-age kids participate in distance running. For instance, in this year’s OCNJ Half Marathon, those whose ages ranged from 20-24 only represented less than 6 percent of the total finishers. The Philly 10k experienced similar demographics, with only 6.8% of total finishers within that same age group. With the total number of participants in high school athletics exceeding 7 million nation wide, one might expect those who are only a few years out of high school to be more inclined to participate in distance running. But talk to any group of college kids and you’ll soon discover that running carries a certain connotation, one reminiscent of the preferred means of punishment of high school coaches everywhere. “Running? We only ran when we pissed off our coaches,” a former high school football player recently told me. “Who the hell would want to do that for fun?” Even former high school track and cross country runners I know, a few of which can boast impressive times and accolades, resent the idea of running just for the sake of it.
As a 19-year-old mechanical Engineering student at Rowan University, Pete finds a joy in running that few other college students do. And while it may perplex other people, it’s a joy that any dedicated runner is familiar with. Finding time within an engineer student’s heavy workload, Pete, often dragging me along, enjoys heading out for runs in the area around the University. As someone near and dear, as my own personal running Sherpa if you will, and as a runner in a demographic without many, I decided to conduct an interview, a little Q&A, in order to find out more about Pete and what makes him tick as a runner.
Q:What’s your first experience with running?
A: My first encounter with running was back in elementary school. To get in shape, I tried running around my block on a somewhat regular basis. I still remember the first time I managed to run two miles consecutively, it was about six laps around my block and it took me close to forty-five minutes.
Q: Did you run in high school? Were you serious about it?
A: I ran all four years of high school. Starting with spring track of my freshmen year, I then decided to go ahead and run all three seasons for the next three years (cross country, winter track, and spring track). I went into track my freshmen year not at all serious about the sport, or running in general. The more I ran, the better I got, and the closer I got with my teammates, the more serious I got about running.
Q: What do you miss about highschool track/XC
A: I thought about this a lot my freshmen year of college; on those first chilly Saturday mornings in the mid October when I would have been out running an XC course over the previous three years. At the end of the day, I miss the feeling of everything. I miss the rush of adrenaline you get when the gun first fires and everyone sprints like a madman to find their rightful place at the front of the pack. I miss the long afternoon practices when me and my teammates were pushed past our limits and we all walked away exhilarated and exhausted. Most of all, I miss my team.
Q: What is your greatest moment or memory as a runner in high school?
A: My greatest moment as a runner in high school would be my race (1600-meter) in states my junior year. I was in the same race as my buddy Mark who was a sophomore at the time. I came up to him right before the start of the race and I said, “Listen pal, these guys are going to take the first two laps way to hard. Just stick with me, and I’ll get us in the lead.” Skeptical of my plan, he did decide to stick with me. So, when the gun went off, everyone shot off the line like a bunch of madmen, and me and Mark kept a respectable pace (me and him in dead last). After the first 400 meters, we both looked at each other and picked up our pace to make it a proper race and as I promised, took us to a 1st and 2nd place sweeping victory.
Q:What is your greatest all time moment as a runner?
A: My greatest moment as a runner would be river to sea (R2C). It’s a 92 mile relay across the state of New Jersey. It is run as a team, each team consisting of seven members and each of the seven members running twice. The runs ranged from 9 miles, to a 2 mile sprint that takes you to the finish line. I’ve run the same legs each year, running a total of about 16 miles per race. Over the roughly 11 hours it takes my team to run the race, everyone has a BLAST. Aside from the sweltering 90+ degree August weather, there isn’t a better run to compete in.
Q: What kind of shoe(s) do you use?
A: I am currently rocking a pair of Vivobarefoot barefoot running shoes.
Q: Why minimalist running?
A: Ever since I first started running in high school, I have been doing research and reading on minimalist running, which eventually took me to barefoot running. Honestly, over the 6,000+ miles I’ve run since I first started taking up running, the only running related injury I’ve ever had (due to shoes) was when I was wearing a pair of Asics gels. For anyone who doesn’t know running shoes that well, they are your typical big brand shoes with TONS of support and with a soft spongy sole. I gave those up after spring track my freshmen year and ran on every Saucony Kinvara ever made up until 2014, a number of Brooks FreeFlows, and now my Vivobarefoot. This is the most extreme minimal I’ve ever done. These are genuine barefoot running shoes, but I must say, I am loving them so far.
Q: What/who inspires you to run?
A: Ironically, most of my inspiration doesn’t come from the typical things you hear from your everyday runner. To me, running has always been a way of getting/staying in shape. It’s the one of the best cardio workouts you can ever make yourself do, it’s self-gratifying the more you do it, and contrary to some people’s beliefs, you do get a runner’s high. I guess what I’m saying is, making running a lifestyle to keep my body in prime condition my entire life is the biggest motivating factors behind me lacing up my shoes.
Q: What would you say to the quintessential non-runner?
A: We are all born to run. You probably won’t believe it, and you’d sit here arguing with me for the rest of your life rather than getting out there and making yourself work, but we are all born to run.
Q: What’s your favorite event/distance?
A: The 1600m will always hold a special place in my heart, that’s the most intense race I’ve ever run and definitely my favorite.
Q: Do you have any goals?
A: Absolutely, I want to run in at least one ultra marathon, and God willing, run a marathon in every state.
Q: The golden question, why do you do it? Why do you run?
A: I run because it’s the most self-gratifying experience we can ever have as human beings. Yea, it sucks when you’re doing it for some of us trying to get in shape. It’ll suck after the first couple runs too. But, to quote one of my favorite poems, “When you’re finished, exhilarated and exhausted, at least for a moment everything seems right with the world.”