Photo courtesy of Danny Karnik

Junior cross country runner Zane Coburn is going into his second season for the Jackets after one year at the University of Georgia. He was one of Tech’s top runners in both the 8K and 10K cross country events as well as a solid force for the track team. A native of Atlanta, he attended Grady High School and is currently majoring in History, Technology and Society.

Technique: How did you first get into cross country running?

Coburn: It was mostly in middle school where a lot of my friends were doing it, so I just decided to go from there. I didn’t run my freshman year in high school, I just played baseball, and then in my sophomore year, I decided to go for it and work it out from there.

Technique: How did you end up at Tech, and why did you leave UGA?

Coburn: I actually went to high school at Grady, which is on 10th Street, so I’m a local kid, but I actually transferred here my sophomore year. I went to the University of Georgia for a year-and-a-half. I originally committed to here coming out of high school, but some things happened, and I ended up at UGA. But there were a lot of coaching changes, and the atmosphere just wasn’t for me. I like it here a lot more.

Technique: Speaking of which, how do you feel about the athletic atmosphere at UGA compared to that of Tech?

Coburn: I think here, especially on the athletic-academic side, we’re given more leeway to do things because they trust us. At UGA, it was more business — everything was a business. So especially on the athletic side, if you weren’t competing the way they wanted you to, you were either off the team or they rescinded your scholarship within that day. I enjoy the atmosphere a lot more down here. Obviously we’re serious about it, and we want to get everything done and compete at a high level, but they understand that we have a lot of academic priorities as well, which UGA didn’t seem to care about as much.

Technique: What motivates you to succeed in cross country? What are your expectations of yourself?

Coburn: Even starting in high school, I was trying to stay up there with the leaders. I wanted to get a degree out of this: I’d be the third person in my family on both sides to get a degree. Just getting to college was a definite boost of morale. Knowing that I want to get my degree, that motivates me to stay and remember that there’s not just athletics but an academic side to it as well. Also, when you have guys running under four minutes to the mile, it motivates you. It’s hard to stay running if you don’t enjoy it. We do similar things everyday. Whether it is speed or distance, it’s still running. If you don’t love it or at least enjoy it, it’s hard to stick with running.

Technique: How do you prepare in the off-season?

Coburn: Summer time is when we run the most mileage. We have a mileage chart for every single day of the week and for every week of the year. Every day is a percentage of our mileage. Last summer, I probably ran a thousand miles. That gets you tough when it’s 95 degrees outside and you’re running 12–13 miles. It hurts a lot, and that’s why you need to mentally prepare.

Technique: What are your hobbies outside of cross country?

Coburn: I grew up close by, and my best friend in the world is actually the best skateboarder. He’s a professional skateboarder for Nike. I grew up in that skateboard culture. It’s a different kind of group; it’s an eccentric and eclectic group, but I consider them my family. I don’t skateboard, but I like to watch it, so I consider it my hobby.

Technique: Do you have any role models?

Coburn: Yeah. There’s a runner named Mo Farah who I think is just amazing. Honestly, my high school coaches, Jeff Cramer and George Darden, kept me at it. I was all over the place in high school. I didn’t know if I wanted to do it all the time and, especially since I was the only cross country runner, I had to do everything myself. They always pushed me and showed me it’ll eventually pay off. Even my coach here, Alan Drosky, has helped me with so much, such as understanding post-graduate opportunities.

Technique: What’s one aspect of cross country that most people don’t know much about?

Coburn: I don’t think people understand the workouts we do; I think they just think we’re slow jogging. It takes so much more than running a few times a week. To be great we have to do speed workouts and long, long workouts at an uncomfortable pace. I don’t think they understand why we take it so seriously. Runners are like a family. Races are usually so painful that after the race, you’ll go up and hug someone and say, “That was a good race,” no matter who it is, because you know you’ve both been through the pain. Running is a science. My coach calculates the paces for everything we do, from a 200-meter to a 10-mile run, so we can understand the shape we’re in.

Technique: Do you have any goals for yourself this season?

Coburn: Last year, I was our No. 2 cross country runner, so I want to stay between 1st and 3rd. I want to make it to the nationals in the 800-meter and 1500-meter, and I want us to win the Penn Relays again. I have goals time-wise: I’d like to break a 4:05. That’d be great, but I’m just going to look ahead and keep on running.

Technique: Are you aiming for the Olympics?

Coburn: Well, the Olympics trials are next year. The United States is a powerhouse in track and field, and so it’s supremely competitive — only the top two or three will qualify. Having said that, it’s been a dream of mine to be able to compete at that level. Ever since I started running cross country, I’ve been aiming to perform at that national level. I think of it every single day. It’ll be incredibly difficult to qualify, but if nothing else, I got there.