In It For The Long Run

Oct. 24, 2001

by Theresa Ripp

Running is a part of Jason Fayant's life. Not running away from something, but towards living a healthier and stronger life.

'I was born with really bad asthma,' says Fayant, now a senior and team captain for the 2001 Husky cross-country squad. 'The doctors wanted me to go on an inhaler, but my parents decided that running at a young age would strengthen my lungs.'

Asthma is no longer a problem for Fayant, and he has not stopped running. Born in Spokane, Wash., Fayant considers himself lucky to come from a community that embraces the often-marginalized sport of running.

'Spokane has a strong running base community,' says Fayant. 'It helped while growing up that people were knowledgeable about running.'

The soft-spoken Fayant ran daily with his father, Tony, an native of Browning, Mont., and a member of the Blackfoot Indian Tribe. Fayant ran with father as a way to be active, not necessarily to compete.

'There are good trails around the high school and along the rivers,' he says. 'Running in Spokane is a lot different than running in Seattle, where you're always along concrete and with exhaust in your face.'

In fact, Fayant did not begin running competitively joining the cross-country team at Spokane's Mead High School, one of the nation's premier prep cross-country programs.

'I was out of shape,' says Fayant of his freshman season at Mead, 'but I won my first race and liked the racing aspect. I do not like to train, but realized I had to in order to stay competitive.'

In 1996, when Fayant was a sophomore, Mead won its ninth-straight Washington state cross-coountry title and was ranked second nationally. While cross-country may not be popular nationally, over 200 of Mead's 1,600 students run in the program. Fayant went on to capture prep All-American honors in 1996, and an individual meet title at the Golden West Championships in Sacramento, Calif.

The University of Oregon was his initial choice of college, but a coaching change prompted him to look elsewhere, including Washington.

'I got a hold of coach Greg Metcalf,' says Fayant. 'We had a great conversation. I knew I could get the most out of running with Greg as my coach.'

Fayant is grateful that he has been given the opportunity to do what he loves and compete at such a high level in the Pac-10.

'The people whom I have met here are my best friends,' he says. 'These are friendships I will carry for the rest of my life.'

Fayant admits he enjoys competing in track for the Huskies more than in cross-country. He is the Huskies' fastest steeplechaser, finishing with a time of 8:59.42 at the Pac-10 Track Championships in 2001, good for a fourth-place finish.

Fayant finds it hard to stay focused on long courses during cross country meets,but finds other ways to keep himself motivated.

'I do enjoy the team aspect of cross country,' he says. 'I like going into battle as a team.'

Fayant competed in five of six cross-country meets for Washington in 2000., clocking clocked a season-best 8000-meter time of 24:15.10 at the 2000 Pac-10 Cross Country Championships, eventually finishing 14th.

His goals for the 2001 season, his first as a captain, are explicit.

'I am going to make it my responsibility that our team gets to nationals and performs well,' he says. 'To be good, a team needs five guys who can pull together on any given day. We have a team that can do that.'

When Fayant is training, he tries not to think about running, preferring to divert his mind from the relentless grind under which he puts his body. When Fayant is competing, however, he keeps his mind focused on running 'smooth, efficient, and powerful.

'I want to be as tough as possible,' he says. 'Cross-country is a demanding sport mentally and physically. One cannot run well without being strong mentally.'

Fayant's mental toughness may influence one member of the Huskies cross-country team in 2001. Chris Fayant, Jason's younger brother, is a freshman on the team.

'I love the fact that my younger brother is here,' Fayant the elder says. 'We have never run on a team together, since he is five years younger. I believe he works harder than anyone I have ever met.'

Chris is dedicated to running in a way that inspires Jason. Like his brother, Chris has had to overcome a physical limitation - in his case, epilepsy. Doctors have told him that if he stopped running, his epilepsy would improve. 'Chris is so dedicated and so in love with this sport, he refuses to stop running,' Jason says. Fayant will graduate in June with a degree in political science and a minor in American Indian studies. He plans to participate in Wings of America, an organization that holds youth camps for Native American runners across the country. Of course, Fayant also hopes to continue running.

'As long as my body holds up and I am capable, I will not stop running,' he says.The definition of running is 'to be performed for a continuous period of time.'

To do Fayant's running justice, however, requires the addition of a few more words - smooth, efficient and powerful.

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