I am now a proud member of the Camp War Eagle Parent’s Runner’s Club. I even have the T-shirt to prove it. Lovers of that extra hour of sleep, flat runs and 65-degree weather, beware. It was not a morning for the faint of heart.
Fourteen summers ago, Doug Hankes, director of student counseling services at Auburn, approached the CWE staff about starting a morning run for parents of new incoming students. A walking tour was already in place, but being a 35-year running veteran, he was envisioning something a little more upbeat. He was met with laughter. They were sure he was joking.
Now, after 105 runs with anywhere from two to 40 parents participating each time, “Dr. Doug” is having the last laugh.
It was a few minutes before 6:30 a.m. and already a balmy 83 degrees when we met in front of the Starbucks in the Student Center on campus. There were 13 runners in all—eight parents, a Camp War Eagle parent counselor, Dr. Doug, U.S. Army Maj. Paul West from Auburn’s ROTC program, Eric Smith, director of health and wellness services, and me.
After introductions, we hit the old dusty, following a course from Haley and Thach concourses past Samford Hall, Toomer’s Corner and Lowder Business building. We ran through The Village dorms, completed in 2009, then paid homage to the new Auburn Arena, Jordan-Hare Stadium and Plainsman Park. A recently paved running trail took us down Donahue Drive, passing Ag Heritage Park, before taking a turn to pass by the student medical clinic. We saw the $24 million Forestry and Wildlife Sciences building, the Hill dorms and the Telfair B. Peet theater. When we finally saw the tailgating green space, I knew the end was in sight.
Barring the heat, it was a pleasant run. Every few minutes a new conversation would crop up, whether it was about the parents’ CWE experience or where I was in my studies. Maj. West made some connections with fathers who were ROTC veterans, and a pair of moms compared where their students would be living. With about 500 parents attending each freshman orientation session, it was nice to see personal relationships being formed.
As a student who is still discovering just how much parents sacrifice for their children, I know it is a difficult task to send us to college. Camp War Eagle helps our No. 1 worriers and protectors rest a little easier, guiding them gently into what, for many, is a new role— parenting a college student.
Thank you, parents, for helping us through our college years. And for all of you who can also run three miles in the Alabama heat, thanks for the encouragement to keep pounding the pavement.