In the 1994 Academy Award-winning movie “Forrest Gump,” the main character runs from one end of the United States to the other more than once and sees some of the beauty of the country in the process.
Members of the St. Clair High School cross country teams over the years may have not put in that many miles on the road, but they have traveled far across the land to get some of that sightseeing in while also getting some training and running under their belts.
In July, the Bulldog harriers completed their latest annual journey when they traveled to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Glacier National Park in Montana. The trip is put together by SCHS teacher and cross country coach Ben Martin.
While doing their fair share of sightseeing, the athletes also ran and train while observing the beautiful countryside.
“Why I decide to do this every year? Good question,” Martin told The Missourian. “The biggest reason is to get students to see the world outside of St. Clair. For some, they haven’t been any farther than Illinois.
“A few of them have been on three or more trips now and have seen a lot of the United States.”
This year is the fifth year Martin has put together the trip. Twenty athletes paid their own way and journeyed west from July 19-26.
In previous years, the team has gone to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, to Washington, D.C., and the Assateague National Seashore in Maryland, to Colorado to experience whitewater rafting and to New York City.
Besides visiting unique places in the United States, Martin said the trip also is about camaraderie.
“Another reason (for the trip) is team bonding,” he said. “The runners who come back from these trips are closer during the season. They really get to know each other.
“Any athlete who cares about their teammates is going to work harder for the team. It’s fun. I think any runner who has ever gone on one of my trips will say it was a great time and they saw a lot.”
The group traveled to Denver on the first day of their 2013 trip and went to a Colorado Rockies baseball game that night.
From there, team members went to Yellowstone where they ran the Lonestar Geyser Trail, swam in Firehole Canyon and saw Old Faithful.
Then they traveled to Glacier for four days and spent some time there with 2012 SCHS graduate and former cross country team manager Ethan Million, who is an airman first class with the U.S. Air Force stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Mont.
Million has been stationed there for about a year and assists with security forces. Million’s mother, Tina, said her son stated that it was “great” to see friends from home.
Upon their arrival at Glacier, the training continued.
“We had two big hikes while there, a 10-mile to Grinnell Glacier and then the 11-mile Highline Trail,” Martin said.
He said that on the drive back, the group stopped at the site of the Battle of Little Bighorn and Custer’s Last Stand.
“We camped while in the national parks and went for a run nearly every morning,” Martin said.