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Coquitlam student finds a new path through running

Gleneagle Secondary senior Adam Crespi wanted to take up cycling for a class project. But the sport was too expensive. So he became a runner instead. A fast one.
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Gleneagle senior Adam Crespi is heading to his first — and last — provincial cross-country championship meet as the senior men's champion in the Fraser North District.

Cycling’s loss is running’s gain.

Adam Crespi, a senior at Gleneagle Secondary, was trying to figure out an activity he could immerse himself in for four months as part of the school’s Talons outdoor leadership program; he wanted to do cycling, but getting a road bike would be an expensive investment. 

To run, though, all he needed was a pair of shoes.

Less than two years later, he’s the Fraser North District senior men’s cross-country champion and, on Saturday (Nov. 6), he’ll be competing at the provincial championships in Vancouver’s Jericho Park.

Crespi’s also had success running middle distances on the track, including winning gold medals in the U15 provincial championships for the 1500m and 800m races, and a victory at the BC Endurance Challenge last July in Victoria.

Crespi said until economics set him on a running path, he’d never considered the sport. 

Now it’s his passion that’s even opened up some unexpected post-secondary possibilities.

“I just really enjoy it,” Crespi said of the initial challenge he set himself to train for a half marathon.

That was just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As his school and life routines were disrupted by closures and public health restrictions, heading up to Coquitlam’s Mundy Park or out to Bert Flinn Park in Port Moody for a run amidst the trees proved a balm in uncertain times.

“Running provided consistency,” Crespi said. “It made me feel better every day.”

In fact, Crespi added, he loved running so much, when the school year ended he kept going. 

He joined the Coquitlam Cheetahs to connect with other runners his age who shared his passion. “Everyone is so driven,” he said of his teammates at the track club. “It pushes you to the next level.”

But where that level was remained largely a mystery through Crespi’s first season as a competitive runner. The pandemic resulted in the cancellation of all meets in 2020. His only measure of progress was against the clock in virtual competitions. 

The results were encouraging.

Crespi ramped up his training, running six or seven days a week. He started going to the gym to increase his strength and refined his diet to boost his energy. He hiked up mountains, including the rugged 47-kilometre Juan de Fuca Trail on Vancouver Island that he completed in eight hours.

Crespi said his natural inclination to run comes from his years playing youth soccer.

“Each game you’re running,” he said. “It really builds your leg muscles.”

But, Crespi said, the team sport never really provided the community he’s found in running.

“If someone you meet is a runner, you can instantly start a conversation. You’re on the same page.”

Crespi said he’s not sure what to expect at his first provincials. Most of his competitors will be unfamiliar, as will the grassy route at Jericho — the majority of the trails he runs competitively at Mundy Park are gravel or dirt.

He said.his strategy will be to sprint to the front and then try to control the race from there.

“You have to be aware of your pace. In cross-country, the race can easily get away from you.”

No matter where Crespi places though, he’s thankful for the course his decision to start running has taken him. Next fall, that could even mean heading south of the border.

Crespi said his academic aspirations had him eyeing the engineering program at the University of British Columbia. But some encouraging feedback from American schools with well-regarded cross-country and middle distance running programs, like Brown University and MIT, have expanded his educational options.

“It’s really opened up some possibilities,” Crespi said. “If I told myself a year ago what I was going to be doing now, I wouldn’t have believed me.”