Photos from Red Lizard Cross Country Series.
“Who the hell are these guys?” One spectator shouted as Scott Olberding glided by at last year’s club cross-country nationals. That was the reaction the Jacuzzi Boys procured when they knocked Nike’s squad off the top block last year. After a collegiate running career at the University of Portland, Olberding founded (if that’s the right word) the Jacuzzi Boys to offer his friends a means to stay competitive with a sport they love. Aside from surprising just about everyone at local races, the Jacuzzi Boys are making a serious point about the roles of fun and competition in the lives of adult athletes.
A bit like the legendary “Cutters” squad, the Jacuzzi Boys don’t exactly make up an ample budget operation. Most of the funding is generated internally (read: they get their money by taking unwise portions from their paychecks). What they lack in funds is made up for in pace. The Boys are all former collegiate track or cross country athletes, almost all from D1 schools, and they’re asserting themselves amongst big names with their results.
From an outsiders’ perspective, they don’t seem to take things too seriously. Their “voice” on social media is that of a cantankerous and sarcastic old Brooklynite. However, my personal involvement grants me a spot on an over-active e-mail chain, by which I’ve determined that these dudes are out running daily, putting in biweekly track workouts and a long run on the weekends. That’s the training load of a college athlete. It’s paying off. Many of them are running times better than their collegiate personal records, and because their racing possibilities aren’t as limited, their able to pursue trail running or marathons.
Along the way, they hold team camps, member Paul Snyder writes a hilarious TGIF e-mail, and everyone has a say in regards to kit design. Scott realized that unlike cycling and certain other sports, post-collegiate running lacked the community that is such an essential part of being on a college squad. Interestingly, until you’ve gone pro, there is less community in the upper echelons of the sport. When you run in college, you spend an absurd amount of time with your teammates. There are hours training together every day, you get dressed together, eat together, live together, and race together. It’s an incredibly communal experience. But, as soon as your eligibility runs out, the people that are still competing but not professionally are doing it solo.
In an effort that The Athletic is keen to support, the Jacuzzi Boys assert that the joys of competitive athletics should not be reserved for those non-mortals who compete at the highest level. While we can appreciate the professional level of any sport, athletics and competition give us a little bit more meaning and inject passion into our daily lives. If the words of Jean-Paul Sartre are true, and life’s meaning is that which we give it, then we can all use all the significance we can get.