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Destler Dodge

"Being a holistic runner can really make a difference. I was never much of a contender before, but I think taking training seriously has helped me become better than I ever thought I could be.”  

In his time competing for RIT’s track and cross-country teams, fifth year Management Information Systems major Jonathan Pelzar has enjoyed one heck of a run — literally. With his accolades ranging from All-Atlantic Region honors, several RIT "Male Athlete of the Week" nominations and quite a few Liberty League "Performer of the Week" awards, Pelzar’s career here has been one of undeniable success. During this year's cross-country season alone, Pelzar has consistently finished in the top 25 of every one of his races, and has high hopes for the rest of the season.  

While his achievements may lead one to believe running has been life-long passion for Pelzar, he is in fact relatively new to the pursuit. After a soccer injury during his sophomore year of high school forced him to look into other options, Pelzar decided to give running a try instead. And just like that, he was hooked.

“I always knew I was good at it, through playing soccer,” he explained. “So I started with track, and that was the first time I had done any sort of running. After that, I quit soccer and ran cross-country the following fall. And since then, I’ve just been running. It’s become something I rely on, the routine of doing it.”     

Like a lot of RIT athletes, what drew Pelzar to the university was the academic opportunities — “I chose RIT because of the school,” he said. “But it was a benefit to me that I could also continue to run.”

Pelzar also felt like he had some unfinished business to attend to when it came to competing.

“I got hurt again my senior year, and I was supposed to have a really good season,” he recalled. “So I was also feeling like I had something left to prove.” Now, with multiple successful seasons behind him, Pelzar has a new goal in mind: making the cross-country national championship in November.

“This year is turning out to be a pretty good year for me,” he said. “Based on performances so far, I have a pretty good shot of making it.” While Pelzar previously preferred track, he discovered that taking a more well-rounded approach to cross-country really effected his performance this year. "Being a holistic runner can really make a difference. I was never much of a contender before, but I think taking training seriously has helped me become better than I ever thought I could be.”  

For cross-country, that training can sometimes be quite brutal — “The process actually starts in the middle of the summer,” Pelzar described. “The training cycle we go through is you run as many miles as you can over the summer, and then during the season you run fewer miles, but you run them faster. As the closer you get to championship season, you run less and less so you can have more energy. At that point, it’s all about the quality of what you’re doing, rather than the quantity.”

Pelzar also explained that cross-country requires a lot more preparation than just running a few hours a day.

“The hardest part about running, is understanding that we might go to practice for two hours a day, but what you do with the other 22 really matters. How you use it, the way you recover, how much you’re sleeping, how much you’re eating,” he said. “College students in general do not live the healthiest life style. It’s not super conducive to being a runner. We kind of have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

On top of what his rigorous training demands, Pelzar is also managing a very full schedule — “I’m taking part-time classes, I’m working, and I’m running,” he said. Needless to say, life can get pretty hectic for him at times. Yet despite the long hours he has to put into training and running, Pelzar said, “When I take that holistic training approach, I just feel so much better overall. It’s for the benefit of the running mostly, but the ability to not get sick as much, and just being a healthier in general is an added bonus.” 

Not only does Pelzar find immense personal satisfaction through running, but he has also come to find a home and family among his cross-country and track teammates.

“Honestly, the funniest, most interesting people I’ve ever met are runners," Pelzar said in praise. "I wish people knew just what an interesting group of guys we are. We don’t just slave away every day, we do it with a purpose, with good attitudes.” In fact, as Pelzar reflects on his time as a runner here at RIT, what stands out to him the most is how close the cross-country and track communities are.

“I thought it was really cool as a freshman how supportive the upperclassmen were,” he recalled. “I was pretty amazed by them. I never thought I’d be able to do what they do as a freshman. But last year, and this year especially, I’ve come to realize that’s me now — I’m doing what they did for me, in terms of support and achievement.”

While his last few days as a collegiate athlete are winding down, Pelzar feels that he won’t be able to leave the running behind.

“Runners sort of have to run,” he said. “They come to rely on it so much — you don’t feel right at the end of the day if you didn’t do something. I wouldn’t keep training the way I have, at the intensity level I’ve been doing. But it would be pretty inconceivable of me to just drop it entirely.”

With only a handful of months left before he graduates at the end of this semester, Pelzar is hoping to continue his success at the NCAA Regional Championship at Rowan University on November 12. How he places at this meet will determine if he goes on to compete at the national level. Make sure to be following the cross-country team cross-country team as the enter into this crucial competition time, and wish them the best of luck!