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From hobby joggers to regular racers, Princeton Running Club offers a home for all

Members of the Princeton Running Club smile for a photograph after the 2023 NIRCA Regionals at Lehigh.
Princeton Running Club following the 2023 NIRCA Regionals at Lehigh.
Picture courtesy of Caroline Coen

Rain or shine, the Princeton Running Club (PRC) doesn’t miss a day of training. Encompassing casual running, sub-elite racing, track events, and social gatherings, the group’s activities center around daily practice, which consists of either an easy run or a pre-structured workout.

“We gather outside of Dillon Gym at 4:45 p.m. on the weekdays and 10:00 a.m. on the weekends,” said Caroline Coen, ’25, PRC’s vice president, in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. “We’ll have a group of people who want to run at faster paces, medium paces, and then a little bit of a slower pace — and different distances, too.”


Once these pace groups form, as Coen says, “you discuss how far you want to go, which route you want to take, and the kids [break] off from there. We’ll also typically do announcements at the beginning of practice.”

Daily runs with friends usually range from four miles for the slower pace group to eight for the fastest, with variations on any given day and twice weekly workouts. Workouts are predetermined and explained ahead of practice, but PRC still offers flexibility for those who would rather run something other than the prescribed intervals.

“The presidents often send out weekly emails telling us what the planned workouts and the easy runs are,” James Ding ’25 said. “On the days themselves, if you don’t feel like running a workout, there are usually people who want to run easy runs too, so I enjoy that flexibility.” 

Running with others, as opposed to running alone, is a key draw for many to PRC. “I can run by myself, but it’s just very boring,” Yair Gritzman ’27 told the ‘Prince.’ “When I run with Running Club, I can go like five or six [miles] because there’s this social aspect that I can be pushed a little more, which is nice … it’s good to just be with other people.”

Gritzman added that PRC members inspired him to recently run the Princeton Half Marathon. “I would have never imagined doing a half marathon,” he said. “I remember talking to people during my runs, and some people were training for marathons. [It] really helped me as a runner progress[ing] from running 5Ks to longer distances like I ran in the Princeton Half.”

In addition to pushing each other to run farther and faster, the social aspect of daily runs helps foster the unique community that PRC has built. PRC’s president, Wiley Kohler ’25, says that this sense of community inspires him to come to practice day after day and is a main reason why PRC is such an important part of his life on campus.


“It’s a really great community that is super consistent, in a way that you don’t often find in a way that’s so non-academic at Princeton,” Kohler said. “There are so many people who I’m able to see, friends I’ve made every single day that I see every single day, and that maybe I don’t interact with at all under other circumstances. But we’re all committed to showing up and running every single day.”

A sizable contingent of PRC members race throughout the year, inspired by the friendly, motivated culture. PRC attracts both seasoned veterans of high-school track and cross-country and first-time racers. 

“Our competitive side entails going to races in the fall cross-country season with the National Intercollegiate Running Club Association and the spring track season with a large mishmash of [races],” Kohler shared. 

The cornerstone of the fall cross-country season is NIRCA Nationals, which occurs at a rotating site usually in the Midwest or Mid-Atlantic. While the club usually sends members to compete for personal bests and enjoy the experience of a large race rather than to win, PRC members have experienced success at Nationals before, such as when Savannah Carnahan GS ’22 won the women’s race in 2021.

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The women's team sent from PRC take a picture in front of the finish line after competing in NIRCA nationals.
The women's team who competed in NIRCA nationals this year.
Photo Courtesy of Caroline Coen

Kohler shared that 2021 Nationals was his favorite memory from Running Club. “I felt like I was really part of the community and really excited about my own running, and [I] felt like I was at my peak,” he told the ‘Prince.’ “It was just very satisfying and super exciting to hang out with all these people I’d become friends with.”

Following the fall cross-country season, racing shifts to the track. On the track, the emphasis shifts from cross-country length — eight kilometers for men and six kilometers for women — to much shorter distances, highlighting the strengths of PRC’s sprinters.

“The sprints part of Running Club is a group that’s been burgeoning in the past couple years, [and] it’s been exciting to see them grow and really become part of our team,” Coen said. “Sprinters typically do compete with us in the winter and the spring specifically. During competitive season, they will train at the indoor track at Jadwin.”

At the Jadwin track, sprinting practice often commences later at night, when varsity teams are not using the facility. While this is the only time and place sprinters can hold specialized practice, it poses a challenge: striking a balance between recognizing separate skill sets and maintaining a unified community.

Maintaining a community is a key focus of the club’s officer corps. For example, Kohler says that while there are no weekday morning practices, this isn’t for lack of thought.

“I think the biggest limitation is essentially [that morning runs] would lead to fragmentation; I think 4:45 for most of the school year works pretty well for everyone,” Kohler said. “If we were to have multiple practices in a day … there’s a bimodality to when people will show up and people will not be able to know everyone in the club as well.”

As Kohler stated, 4:45 p.m. is not the set time for the entire school year. During the winter months, there are also 3:45 p.m. runs for those who can make it when the sun is still shining. For regular, devoted members like Fiona Logan-Sankey ’24 and James Ding '25 , this is a rare point of dissatisfaction.

“I do feel like it divides up the group in a way that’s a little bit unfortunate,” Logan-Sankey said. However, Logan-Sankey noted that, “I think it’s really good for people that are able to run at that time to be able to run when it’s still light out.”

In contrast, Ding expressed a reservation regarding the smaller group sizes and more limited pacing options with two practice times, saying that “sometimes only the more fast members come, and sometimes I kind of feel pressured to join them because there isn’t an intermediate group that I could hop in.”

Given the stratification that can occur during differently paced runs and workouts, social events play an important role as the common thread to unite PRC members.

“Beyond [daily runs], we have some set events every week to encourage the group to really interact beyond just the people they run with every day,” Coen said. “On Tuesday nights, we gather for study sessions. We also have ‘Forbes Friday’ dinners every Friday night.”

Kohler echoed this sentiment, claiming that  increased social interaction has been a key goal of his presidency, which ends at the end of the calendar year. “My vision in my presidency has been to get social events and running events that encourage people to intermingle more and to include people who aren’t currently part of Running Club more in that community.”

Princeton Running Club smiling for a group photograph on the grass of Prospect Garden during Lawnparties.
Princeton Running Club’s biannual Lawnparties photo at Prospect Garden.
Photo Courtesy of Caroline Coen

While the social aspect of PRC is important, many still cite running adventures as their favorite experiences. 

“My most fond memory from running club is my freshman year,” Logan-Sankey said. “I went on this fun adventure run with Hayden [Burt ’22 GS ’23] and Sarah Brown [’23], and we swam in the Mountain Lakes lake. It was really epic.”

Ding, who grew up in Singapore’s warm climate, shared a winter memory of running the Pretty Brook route. “I hadn’t run in snow before, so it was especially crazy for me because I hadn’t even seen snow; I was really scared of falling,” he said. “Over time I just slowly got used to it, and I really enjoyed it because I thought the landscape looked so beautiful and magical with the snow — across the bridge, over the water.”

Naturally, other Running Club members also have their favorite routes around the Princeton area.

“Number one is Pretty Brook,” Ding added, once again praising the route from his fondest memory. “It took me two years to know how to run it, but now I know [where] I’m going. I also really enjoy running Institute Woods.”

Gritzman spoke of a route known to almost everyone who has run at Princeton. “I used to go to the towpath two to three times a week,” he said, “but now it’s always dark at 4:00.”

Coen added a classic PRC route: “I really like a route that we call Bean Fields” she explained. “It’s about a seven-mile route, so for a day when you want to have a bit of a longer run and see some pretty nature, it’s a really pleasant route.” 

All its activities notwithstanding, PRC remains a group with a very simple main identity.

“We’re essentially, at our core, a group of people who run together,” Kohler said.

Max Hines is a contributing writer to the Sports section of the ‘Prince.’

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