By AMANDA BEAM
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Competitive runners must really get tired of losing to Floyds Knobs resident Chuck Crowley. For the past three years, he has won his age group in the Southern Indiana Runner of the Year series. Throughout his running career, he's dominated way too many races to list.
Even if he doesn't participate in a given race, chances are that at least one of the top finishers of the event has been coached by the local legend. Over the years, he's trained more than 400 by his count.
“My favorite saying for them is 'Every day is a great day to run,'” Crowley said. “We say it's a perfect day. It's a great day. We'll make the best of every day. Every day you get to run is a great day.”
And then there's the streak.
That's how many consecutive days as of Sept. 4 that Crowley has run without a break. More than six years of pounding the pavement daily, and he shows no signs of stopping.
With Crowley's smooth, youthful face and runner's physique, many might guess him to be much younger than his 54 years. Maybe it's his healthy diet. While avoiding fried foods, he eats plenty of fruits and vegetables including a banana every morning and drinks plenty of water. Or it could be that his 41 years of running that has kept aging at bay. And then again, it might be that he surrounds himself with youth.
On a day in late August, Crowley readied the Providence High School Cross Country team for practice. Going on 13 years now, he has coached the boys and girls from PHS, even leading them to semistate as a team in his first season at the helm. After a warm-up jog and some stretching, he accompanied the kids on their weekly long run, something the students appreciate.
“He runs with us. He's not just one of those coaches that sits on the sidelines and tells you what to do. You can see his dedication and it makes you want to do better,” said PHS senior Erin Denis.
Agitation never enters Crowley's voice when he speaks. And the volume remains the same, only raising his voice to cheer on his runners. He also gives them insight. While discussing an upcoming race, he explained how to pass an opponent with almost poetic prose.
“Every time you pass somebody, you take something away from them and inspire yourself,” he said.
Back in Queens, New York, Crowley learned self-motivation during his freshman year at Holy Cross High School, his first experience in running. At the time, the 5-foot, 90-pound boy didn't necessarily fit the preconceived notion of a runner. He finished mostly mid-pack.
“I always wanted to do a sport, but I wasn't good at any sports,” he said. “I was too short for basketball, too skinny for anything else.”
But Crowley didn't quit. By the end of his second year, he became the fastest runner in his class. Then, as a senior, his hard work propelled him to one of the five fastest runners in his school's history. His speed and reputation allowed him to walk-on to the cross country and track team at Indiana University. There, he obtained his 5K personal record of 15:34 while training under world-renowned coach Sam Bell. As a Hoosier, he also met his wife, Laura.
Former Providence and University of Louisville cross country coach Fred Geswein said Crowley also gives back to the running community by organizing two charitable races, the Run for the Berries and Chuck's Kiwanis 5K. Geswein gives him credit for being able to compete at such a high level while juggling the demands of life.
“Not only has he been able to maintain his streak and his enthusiasm for competition, but he's also able to do this while he's kept a full-time job and he's raised his family,” Geswein said. “Doing all three of those at the same time is very difficult.”
To this day, Crowley continues to share the wisdom he's learned over the years. He brightens when he speaks of his love of the sport, admitting he could talk about the subject for hours. Running is such an ingrained part of his life; he can't consider the possibility of ever quitting.
“Why would I stop running?” he asked.