Imagine every muscle in your body begging for mercy. Imagine your lungs screaming in agony, pleading for you to stop. Now, imagine this is your hobby.
Welcome to the life of Chris Gaube. Every time he competitively races in a cross country event, it is another battle between the mind and body. It takes intense mental strength to run cross country in the first place; it takes another kind of crazy to run as hard as he does. The real kicker is that he manages to be one of the best runners in America East while getting his master’s of business administration.
The Vestal native graduated with his undergraduate degree in English in just three years and now is entered in the two-year MBA program in the School of Management. His demanding academic schedule has not stopped him from excelling in running.
“He’s been challenged a lot this fall, running and academically,” his head coach, Annette Acuff, said. “He’s extremely mentally tough, he certainly responds well to pressure and that has translated in competition, as well as school; it’s helped him achieve a large part of his success.”
His competitive mentality has translated to immense success on the cross country course. This year he won the season-opening Binghamton Invitational over a field of 50 runners, in front of friends and family. He finished second overall at the America East championships, earning All-Conference honors and helping to lead his team to its first ever conference title. Last year, he won the season-opening Baltimore Metro Invitational in a field of 122 runners; he also earned a spot on the All-Conference team with a third-place finish in the AE championships.
“His work ethic outside of his running is so definitive,” teammate Erik van Ingen said. “He’s a Renaissance man, he does it all; he’s at practice every day but he did his undergrad in three years and he’s social outside of all that. Somehow he does it all.”
Gaube seems like a perfect fit to be a Bearcat. His choice to come to Binghamton was over a number of other Division I programs that were interested in him. Ultimately, the decision came down to academic prominence, and to him the best place to get his education was BU.
“The reason I’m here is to get an education,” Gaube said. “It’s just an added bonus to be a student-athlete.”
His local roots and his love for the area made it easier to choose Binghamton. Being near his friends and family has given him a unique experience as a student-athlete. His family has been able to come out and support him throughout his career. His parents travel to races and it has given them the opportunity to share in his successes.
Behind every great athlete usually stands a great coach. In Gaube’s eyes, Acuff has fulfilled that role better than he had imagined.
“She’s been so instrumental, she’s instilled confidence in me over the years and she’s just such a good coach,” he said. “She’s so organized, so conscientious and she really individualizes the workouts for each athlete, which is impressive considering we have 40 athletes. She’s done so much for me and taught me so much about what it takes to achieve and perform at a high level. When you believe in your coach and she believes in you, it’s a good recipe for success.”
Not many athletes have the opportunity to take a team at the bottom of a league and transform it into champions. Gaube had this unique opportunity when he first arrived at Binghamton. The men’s team was eighth out of nine schools at the conference championship his first two years; things finally starting changing last year.
“Just being a part of this program and being a part of the development and seeing our program go from point A to point Z has been an amazing feeling,” Gaube said. “I know what it’s like to be on the bottom, and have a vision and dream big. I’ve said that we would win a championship since Day 1. It’s just awesome to have your visions become reality.”
His high school experiences in cross country were rather short compared to those of the typical Division I runner. He only joined his high school team in his junior year. Despite his humble acknowledgment that he was not very good in high school, he still won his sectional race in his first year and was among the best in his class at the New York state meet.
“I recruited him for his leadership ability to help us build a competitive program,” Acuff said. “He’s exceeded my expectations, but the more I get to know Chris, the more it makes sense of how he’s been so successful. You can achieve a lot from a great work ethic and taking care of yourself and your health.”
When it comes down to it, some of the best moments that cross country runners have are with their teammates. The camaraderie of a team and the close relationships can have significant influences on a team. For Gaube, his teammates have been the most important aspect of the sport. Teams that are cohesive and that make the sacrifices that are necessary to achieve success make the process that much more rewarding for its players. Having his teammates rely on him on a daily basis has brought on a desire to perform from Gaube and a desire to do well for the people he considers his best friends.
“I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for cross country; it’s such a great sport,” he said. “But you need to have a few screws lose to actually run it.”
The sport itself is as tough as it gets. Cross country runners often say to other athletes, “Our sport is your sport’s punishment.” Gaube, and every other cross country runner, deserve at the very least, a great deal of respect for the effort they put in.
When it comes down to picking hobbies, however, maybe we should laugh at someone like Gaube for picking something so difficult and painful.