Out of the scenes of greenery that decorate the College of William and Mary’s campus, one particular tree across Barrett Hall stands out to members of Team Blitz, the College’s running club.
Every weekday at 4 p.m., that tree serves as a meeting place for team members looking to run anything, from a casual loop around Colonial Williamsburg to a hard ten miles. As they chat and stretch, runners form groups based on how fast and how long they want to run, swapping new and old running routes. By 4:07 p.m. (according to “Blitz time”), they take off, running until they return to “the tree.”
Team Blitz was initially founded in 2002 by a group of former collegiate runners looking to emulate the college running experience on their own terms. This ideal has shifted to include any and all students looking to run with others, yet the concept of being in control of one’s own running still remains. With no mandatory practices or meets, it’s up to the individual to decide their level of involvement in Team Blitz.
“Our catchphrase is ‘be your own dad,’” Club President Sydney Smith ’24 said. “And it’s kind of this idea of like, your parents aren’t controlling your running anymore, your coaches aren’t controlling your running anymore. You’re here, and you’re going to run whatever you want.”
Like many members, Smith came from a family of runners and ran competitively in middle and high school. However, she found high school running had a lot of stress and negativity. She credits Team Blitz with changing her mindset and relationship with the sport.
“I think it’s taught me that I’m more than just a sport,” Smith said. “Like, for a while, I defined myself as a runner, but now I’m just like, I like running. And it’s totally valid to call yourself a runner, I’m not criticizing that at all, but it’s just shown me that you don’t have to sacrifice everything for one thing.”
High school running can be physically and mentally draining, especially for those looking to be recruited to run in college. Team Blitz’s laid-back atmosphere and noncommittal nature is a welcome contrast for many who truly enjoy running.
“You meet people who aren’t D-I athletes,” Smith said. “They’re coming to practice because they love the sport. So it’s really a community of people who just want to be there, which is super valuable.”
This close-knit community contributes to a vibrant social environment within Team Blitz.
“My favorite part is the social aspect, but it’s specifically the social aspect of being able to talk to people about running,” club member Grace McGehee ’25 said. “Because I love talking about running. I can talk about running forever.”
Bonding over a common interest and their shared experiences, members have created strong friendships during practices, races and team activities. These connections formed within Team Blitz enrich the running experience for members, helping them reach new goals in running while having fun as a group.
Club member Will Kyle ’23 remembered the first time he ran a 10 mile run with Team Blitz, a freshman surrounded by upperclassmen.
“We just, like, talked the entire time and I didn’t think I could do it, but we finished that ten mile run, and I just felt so good for, like, days after that,” Kyle said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m glowing.’”
Kyle spent most of high school running on his own, but he quickly realized the power of running with a fun group of people after joining Team Blitz in college.
“And it’s kind of this idea of like, your parents aren’t controlling your running anymore, your coaches aren’t controlling your running anymore,” Smith said. “You’re here, and you’re going to run whatever you want.”
Members benefit not only physically and socially, but also mentally from the team as well. Running provides a brief but much needed pause from academics, and a chance to de-stress and pursue what is a passion for many. McGehee explained how she was injured last semester, so she was unable to go to practices until May.
“Last semester I was injured, and that was basically I went to one Blitz practice at the very beginning of the year. That was my last run until last May,” McGehee said. “And so it really made me realize how important being on Team Blitz was because last semester was not awesome all the time, and I realized how much I needed that outlet of running and of just taking time to take a break from my studies.”
Ultimately, Team Blitz’s infectious energy sets them apart from other running clubs.
From proudly singing the alma mater and loudly cheering at meets, to blasting music on speakers at practices, they strike the perfect balance of hard work and fun in their running.
“We had a meet, I think, two weeks ago, we were one of the smallest teams,” Smith said. “But we were having so much more fun than anyone else. We had the dumbest cheers, I brought ribbons for everyone, we have our own Blitz flag I found in a closet, blasting our speakers running in formation. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Smith’s favorite Team Blitz event perfectly encapsulates the team’s eclectic combination of running and liveliness. After a relay from Jamestown to Richmond totaling 52 miles, with cars of team members cheering each other on and making chalk art on trails for hours on end, the team gathers for “Blitzmas,” with Secret Santa, cookies and hot chocolate.
“It’s a fun event of just getting to know people for a super long time,” Smith said.
For any interested students, Team Blitz practices Monday through Friday at 4 p.m., across from Barrett Hall on the Lemon Field. Just be sure to find “the tree” before 4:07 p.m., most likely surrounded by a group of students getting ready for another run.