The Inspiration, Vision, and Philosophy Behind
The Whiteside Running Club
Running has almost always been an important part of my life. The Whiteside Running Club has become an outlet of expression of my passion for running, Hip Hop, and life.
Growing up in Southern Illinois, I was exposed to running at age 6 through my older brother Nick’s foray into Cross-Country running the fall semester of his freshman year of high school. Being a 6 year old, I really don’t remember much about him running that first year except having to get up on Saturday mornings in the fall, missing cartoons, sometimes freezing, and playing in the woods while high schoolers ran loops around parks (Little did I know that getting up on Saturday mornings would be something I would do for the next 34 years and counting).
During my brother’s sophomore and junior years, a few more memories were cemented with me – the biggest of which was Detweiller Park in Peoria, IL. Detweiller has been and still is the site of the Illinois State Cross-Country Meet. I remember being overwhelmed by spectators at Detweiller. I think even as a seven year old I must have wondered why so many people would go watch people running circles on such a crisp, chilled November morning. The first really great runner that I ever saw was during my brother’s sophomore state meet. Tom Graves won that day in 13:56.6 (for 3 miles). He awed me because he won convincingly and in my words (at the time), “looked like a man.” I also remember Nick’s junior year because he ran the same time as his sophomore year and finished the same place. I still remember his frustration with that stat, but I also remember the determination to rectify that in his senior year.
Mike Clark and Nick Whiteside running on Log Cabin Road, Mt. Vernon, IL
I think Nick had four immediate influences on him early in his high school career. Jim Smith was his first coach and really got him interested in running. Nick’s second high school coach was Sonny Ellis who I think Nick (like myself when he later coached me) looked to as a second father figure. Third was Nick’s off-season coach – Gerald Chesley. Coach Chesley was from the old school! I remember times getting dragged out with Nick to go for runs on the country roads just outside of Mt. Vernon, IL. Ches (as Nick and I called him) would explain to me why Nick was running, what his splits meant, and how the stopwatch worked (there were NO digits on it; it had a big hand and a little hand for seconds and minutes). The fourth influence was more of a folk hero to Mt. Vernon running. Mike Clark was (and probably is) the greatest distance track runner Mt. Vernon has ever produced. He never excelled at the championship meets in high school, but his workouts, mid season performances, and lifestyle are the stuff of legend. He began his collegiate career at Alleghany Community College and from there went to the University of Arkansas under John McDonald. While at Arkansas, he ran a sub 4 mile equivalent and won multiple major races immediately following a successful college career. Mike even joined Nick for some runs with Coach Chesley. Ches had a hand in coaching Mike while he was in high school. I remember meeting him on several occasions and he was always as friendly as could be (even to the bratty 7 or 8 year old that I was).
It was also during these two years 1977-1978 (I think) that I first became aware of Craig Virgin. Craig is arguably the greatest distance runner that Illinois has ever known. He is also arguably the greatest Cross-Country runner that the US has ever known. In Illinois circles, he IS the benchmark that Illinois harriers try to measure up to. My brother (somehow) through a contact at church obtained film of Craig running in high school. One night we watched film of Craig running in his Lebanon uniform. I remember asking questions of my brother and mother about Craig and both of them spouting (what seemed like to the child that I was) lengthy dissertations about the legend that was Craig Virgin. I think those films eventually got to Craig. Craig went on to win back-to-back IAAF World Cross-Country Championships – a feat that has never been achieved by another American (1980-1981).
Nick Whiteside and Jim Files leading the 1979 Illinois State
My brother’s senior year implanted several running memories in me that last to this day. It was clear from the day after his junior year state track meet that my brother’s one desire in life was win a state title. Winning a state title is something that I carry in me to this day! It is something that I try to instill in the athletes that I coach to this day. My brother worked harder than anyone I had ever seen. I think that the times in my life that I have worked my hardest have come from that ethic he displayed in the summer of 1979. During the season he had multiple great races. Nick was the kind of runner that ran hard all the time (another quality where he tried to imitate Craig Virgin). Nick set multiple course records, won multiple invitationals throughout his high school career (he is still on the all-time Illinois HS list for meet wins and major meet wins), and finished 5th at Detweiller in his final State meet appearance against some of the very best in the country (2 of those that beat him qualified for the 1st Kinney National meet – now known as Footlocker). I remember that state meet well because I explored the woods and ditches of Detweiller Park that day. However, my father shot film that day and it became ingrained into my memory for my time at the state meet.
Coach Sonny Ellis and Nick Whiteside, City Park, Mt. Vernon,
After graduation Nick earned a scholarship to Eastern Illinois University. Nick enjoyed a very respected collegiate tenure there before entering the “real world” as an accountant in Springfield, IL.
I dabbled a little into running during my brother’s high school and college careers, but I was far more interested in being a juvenile delinquent, especially during the time that Nick was in college. I ran in elementary and junior high, but was not the best on the team nor did I have the best work ethic or attitude. I think I ran because that was what I knew how to do. I was highly uncoordinated. I was not big. I was not that smart. And I was not popular among my peers.
In between times of trouble (mostly to garner attention), something new was happening that I wanted to be a part of. Hip Hop culture had found its way to the Midwest and I first became exposed to it at the age of 11. One of my best friends (and worst influences in many ways) got me hooked. I had been aware of the Sugar Hill Gang and Blondie from the radio, but my best friend found out about one of the “Black” radio stations in St. Louis that had a top 8 at 8 countdown every night. Since my parents were divorced, my mother worked nights, and my brother was away at school, we listened and recorded the top 8 countdown at my house each night. The better of the St. Louis area stations, Z-100 FM , was too difficult to receive because of all of the other stations around it on the dial. BUT, Majik 108 FM was at the end of the dial by itself and transformed two white boys into Hip Hop loving youth! Grandmaster Flash’s “It’s Nasty” was the first Rap song that I really fell in love with and knew had changed my life. When I heard Flash’s “Wheels of Steel,” I knew that DJing was going to be a part of my life for some time to come (and that Hip Hop culture and Rap music would be staples in my life).
|Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five “The Message” album cover|
When I started running seriously (I use that term to mean “a regular basis”) my freshman year, I was still getting into trouble on the side, I wasn’t focused and I was quite apathetic about Cross-Country, Track, and school. I did love Hip Hop. My mother was smart enough to realize this and figured a way to marry the two so that I would be just as excited about Saturday’s race as I was about the next record I was going to buy. She came up with a bribery system of sorts to get me on track so to speak. She would give me money to spend on records or equipment based on how well I ran. Needless to say, I found a new focus for running and at the same time became set on being an aspiring deejay. The system worked for a while. Halfway through my freshman year, I had moved to 3rd man on the team. By the end of the year, I had run 16:44 for 5k and helped my team qualify for the Illinois State Cross-Country meet. After the season though, I went back to trouble and the process started all over again in track season. In track however, I wasn’t successful. Probably my best stat as a freshman trackster was a 10:02 3200-meter run.
It was the summer before my sophomore year that trouble really got me into a situation where I could become a low level criminal or try the running thing. I went for the latter. I cleaned up my act, threw myself into running, and got even more into music and deejaying (as a way to keep myself out of trouble). The next two years I was all about training, Hip Hop, and (sometimes) school. My best friend, Scott, really pushed me into running during my sophomore and junior years of high school. We became competitive in everything running related. During my senior year, my best friend Jay got me really into music –not just listening and appreciating it, but studying it! We were walking Hip Hop encyclopedias. During my senior year, I also began deejaying regularly with Jay and Chuck, my other best friend, at my side.
Everett Whiteside, 1987 Sectional Cross-Country Meet, Springfield, IL
Running in the summer before my senior year became the paramount force in my life. Nick had come home to train me in my quest for a state title. Every step I ran in the summer of 1987, he ran with me. He tried to teach me everything that that he knew – the successes and the failures so that I would be prepared. He put a fire into me that had not been there before. We talked about his career, my career, and what could be done. I felt that I had the best situation because I trained hard, I trained smart, I had my own training partner that could match anything I could do, and I thoroughly believed in, trusted, and loved my coach (Coach Sonny Ellis – who had coached my brother during his final 3 years of high school). My senior year was fairly successful. I only lost one race that season – the state meet. Ironically, I ran the EXACT same time as my brother had 8 years before.
After graduating I earned a scholarship at The University of Alabama. I enjoyed a mediocre running career there, but I changed tremendously. Hip Hop, deejaying, and becoming the person I am today really took shape at the University of Alabama. Sure, I learned much about training, saw some really good runners, met and interacted with some really good runners, but mostly, I discovered what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to take running and teach it to others. I wanted to live the passion of running. I wanted to package my running and deliver it with my philosophy that started in Hip Hop culture and continued at Alabama.
After graduating from Alabama, I accepted a job offer from Escambia County in Pensacola, Florida. I have been teaching and coaching at Booker T. Washington High School since the fall of 1994. The state title that my brother and I never realized became a reality for me as a coach in 2004 when my team won the FHSAA 3A title in Tampa, FL. Then in 2006, the individual state title that eluded both my brother and me was crowned in one of my runners, Eric Larson. He won the FHSAA 3A Cross-Country title that season. Then, in the spring of his senior year, he capped a stellar high school career by winning the 3200-meter state title in track.
In my desire to bring Running, Hip Hop, and “No Guts, No Glory” to the table, I started and continued Whiteside Running Club. The passion of running hopefully brings the fellowship shared by all runners. The elements of design and mindset of self-expression from Hip Hop hopefully bring a unique stylistic element. And lastly, the skulls, the t-shirt quotes, and the revolutionary imagery bring the idea that one must possess fortitude and strength of character to be the best that one can be.