October 8, 2013

‘High Noon’: Running Since 1982

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By JONATHAN LOBEL

While many are still eating lunch, the High Noon Athletic club meets every weekday at noon at Teagle Hall for regular lunchtime runs and other workouts. Founded in 1982 by Cornell librarian John Saylor and friend John Walsh ’82, the club’s purpose is “to foster health and endurance performance in all forms of athletic endeavors,” according to its website.

Although people have run from Teagle Hall at Cornell for years before the club’s formation, founders Saylor and Walsh “decided they wanted to have a group identity and a team to run for,” according to the group’s website. Initially consisting of just six members 30 years ago, the group now attracts as many as 30 to 35 runners on any given day. Members include Cornell faculty, staff members, graduate students, undergraduates and local New York residents.

Unlike most running groups that have formal bylaws and require fees for membership, High Noon is known for its informality and casualness, Saylor said. The single requirement to gain membership is showing up at Teagle Hall for a run.

Adam Engst ’89, a longtime club member, said he likes the club’s informality.

“My favorite thing about High Noon is how it just exists. There are no meetings, no organizations, no officers,” Engst said.

As the group includes runners of all skill levels, runs typically range from four miles to 13 miles. Usually, they divide into two parts, one consisting of slower runners and the other consisting of more advanced fast pace runners. The more advanced runners often coach and help train newcomers and beginning runners.

“[The group] has definitely been an inspiration for a lot of people,” Saylor said.

The group runs all over the Ithaca area, including through the Plantations, golf courses and game farms. Harsh weather does not stop them from running, as they meet year-round through rain, snow, and sleet. On particularly inclement days, they utilize the track in Barton Hall, according to Saylor.

High Noon runs as a team in several competitions, including the Upstate New York Cross Country series in the fall and the Mountain Goat Ten Mile in Syracuse in the spring. Additionally, the club annually sponsors the Hartshorne Masters Mile in late January, as well as the Skunk Cabbage Classic 10K and half marathon in April, according to the club’s website.

Aside from being an athletic club, High Noon is also a close-knit social network, according to Saylor. Saylor also said members who leave Ithaca stay connected with the group through a group email chain, enabling them to keep in touch, discuss running news and share workouts. As a result, former High Noon runners living in various different states — including Georgia, Washington and Massachusetts — are able to maintain lifelong friendships.

Charlie Fey, senior manager of the Department of Performing and Media Arts and a member of High Noon since 1997, said he appreciates the diversity represented in the club.

“It’s a fascinating group because, Ithaca being Ithaca, people come and go regularly,” he said in an email. “I can find myself going step for step with a Nobel laureate and a 20-something undergraduate from some place I’ve never heard of. And everyone has an interesting story.”

For Saylor, the genuine camaraderie of the group is what makes the club especially enjoyable.

“By far it’s the people [that I enjoy most.] Because Cornell is constantly refreshing with new people, new faculty, new students and new staff, there’s always somebody new coming. It’s been a really great experience for me,” Saylor said.

Aside from the people he has met, Saylor said that one graduate student even met his future wife through High Noon.

“I’ve met a lot of my best friends through High Noon,” Saylor said. “I think a lot of other people would say the same thing.”

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