BAR HARBOR — Lynn Jennings, an Olympic and international track and cross-country star, is set to give a presentation and lead a short group run from the Mount Desert Island YMCA on Sunday, Dec. 14, from 10 a.m. to noon.
The event is the first presented by the MDI Adolescent Council, a program of the YMCA. The MDI High School cross-country coaches and team also have been involved in planning.
Jennings brought home the bronze medal for the U.S. from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in the 10,000 meters. Her time in that event of 31:19.89 was a new American record that stood for 10 years. Her American record in the 10k road race still stands. She also holds many U.S. and international cross-country champion titles.
Her favorite recollections of races, she said, are “good memories of superb race execution, feeling completely mentally and physically prepared and then executing savvy races so that (she) got to the finish line first.”
At 14, Jennings joined the boys cross-country team at the Bromfield School in Harvard, Mass. “I was the only girl on the team and the only girl in the league,” she said. “The school is small, and the only other autumn sports were boys’ soccer and girls’ field hockey. I didn’t know I was excited about the sport until I ran the full first season. It was more of a beckoning. Running seemed to be a thing to do that showed me to myself. Even as a 14 year old, I was drawn to that.”
She said the different forms of competitive running – track, cross-country, and road racing – each require endurance, strength, speed and power.
“Track places a premium on fluidity and rhythm, cross-country places a premium on being strong on hills and adept at rough footing (mud, ruts, uneven grass), and road racing is essentially a combination of those things given one has to be strong on hills, quick on downhills and able to handle the harder surface.”
Today, retired from her pro running career, running on trails is her favorite. “My heart has always belonged to cross-country. The natural elements, the importance of being tough, strong, robust and powerful were all things that appealed deeply to me,” she said.
“Track is where the Olympic medals are handed out, so I had to take my cross-country strengths and skills and smooth them out for track racing. The strategies of racing, being able to keep the gas pedal pressed down for an entire race, staying in contact with the pack – these skills took me a long time to feel adept at.”
Her coach usually discouraged running road races, she said. “Purity in the sport meant cross-country and track. Road racing was always fun for me, a way to run fast, meet up with different competitors on different courses around the country, meet everyday runners and earn prize money. They were a happy break from the intensity of chasing world and national titles in cross-country and working to get very fast times on the track.”
Jennings now works as director of running at Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont in the summer. She lives off the grid in Oregon in the winter. Craftsbury hosts adult running camps and high school cross-country camps. She’s also a competitive sculler.
“This talk will offer a cool experience for our community to run with an Olympian and hear what her experience has been,” said YMCA wellness director Angela Balacco. The event is free to students and $12 for adults.