Bourland's work on track paying off

July 19, 2001|By CHRIS GRANT, Sports Editor

For Dennis Bourland, running is a labor of love.

Bourland, a teacher at Wilson Junior High in El Centro and former Southwest High School cross country and track coach, recently had his hard work on the runner's trail pay off in a big way.

Within the past month he won the San Diego Padres "Race for the Pennant" and was selected to join the San Diego Adidas running team.

"I was very surprised," Bourland said of his win in the Padres race. "I haven't won a race in San Diego in a long time. In college I would finish in the top three and since then, maybe in the top 10. I was very happy with this."


Bourland's reward for winning the 5-kilometer "Race for the Pennant" was both a plaque and the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at the Padres game July 4.

The prospect of delivering a pitch from the pitcher's mound to home plate in front of 30,000 people was not at all daunting for Bourland.

"I get more nervous before a race than I did for that," he said.

Bourland, 31, got his start running at El Camino High in Oceanside. From there he moved to MiraCosta Community College, also in Oceanside, where he competed for two years. Bourland finished his collegiate running career at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. While at Point Loma, Bourland placed 10th in the 1,500 meters at the NAIA national track meet.

"Out of all the sports, that was what I was best at," Bourland said of why he chose to run. "I enjoyed being good at something so I stuck with it."

In addition to winning the Padres' race, Bourland won a 1-mile road race in Santa Barbara on June 9.

His successes have come six weeks after he decided to join a group of local runners who train at Southwest High. The group consists of six to eight other runners and they work out under the watchful eye of Gary Rust, the man responsible for the Carrot Festival race.

"I've been out there with them for the past six weeks," Bourland, who has won the past two Carrot Festival races, said. "I'm back to doing workouts like I did in college. You really can't improve unless you're pushing yourself."

Of Rust, Bourland said, "Gary's a real good encourager. He's always getting on you to go faster."

Another benefit Bourland has reaped for his running career is the opportunity to join the San Diego Adidas team.

"A guy I went to college with is the captain of the team and he said I should be on it," Bourland said of his reason for joining.

"It was always in my mind. but it was way back there."

Membership on the team not only offers Bourland plenty of free shoes and clothes but the chance to run in a more structured environment. The team will tell him which races to compete in and set a schedule for his upcoming road races.

The main reason for all Bourland's recent hard work has been a time goal he set for himself in early June. He has himself on pace to reach that goal at the Arturo Barrios 5-10 kilometer race in San Diego in October.

"I just take it one step at a time and see where I improve," he said. "When I achieve this goal, I'll set another one.

"I had a time goal for October and when I made the decision not to coach I knew I had the time to put in the training."

As for why he continues to run in the sweltering Valley heat, well, that all goes back to Bourland's love of the sport.

"I just enjoy it," he concluded. "It's strange to think that someone enjoys going out there at 100-110 degrees and enjoys it, but to work hard at something and see a result come out in the race is what it's all about. It's not necessarily about winning the race, but to achieve what I wanted to achieve."

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