Cliff Childs’ lifelong passion for running has taken him many places.
Next spring, the 22-year-old Kelowna product will embark on his biggest journey yet when he heads to Europe for the FISU world university cross country championships.
Childs has been selected to compete with the Canadian Interuniversity Sport cross country team on Saturday, April 14 in Lodz, Poland.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to represent Canada…it’s an awesome opportunity, I’m pretty excited,” said Childs. “It’s nice to see all the hard work pay off, and hopefully it’ll be the first of many events I’ll run for Canada. It’s a great way to end my university career.”
The world university championships will be Childs’ highest profile competition to date as he winds down his five-year career with the University of Victoria Vikes track team.
The Kelowna Secondary School graduate—who also competes in indoor and outdoor track—has been enjoying his best season yet on the national cross country circuit.
At the CIS championships in Quebec in November, Childs placed ninth in a field of the country’s best university runners at the 10 km distance.
Two weeks later in Vancouver, Childs was 11th at the Canadian senior championships in Vancouver.
Vikes head coach Brent Fougner has watched the Kelowna runner’s development over the years and said Childs’ inclusion on the Canadian team is well deserved.
“Over the five years he’s progressed very well in his training and his competition level,” said Fougner who, along with associate coach Keith Butler, works with Childs. “This has been his best year as a runner, and his selection to the team is a credit to all the work he’s done.
“His training commitment, his leadership on the team has been very good.”
To anyone who knows Childs’ background, his success on the track and in cross country shouldn’t come as a big surprise.
Growing up in a household of runners, he has been running competitively since the age of 10.
But it’s not just the lure of competition that continues to hold Childs’ passion and fascination for the sport.
While it’s very much an individual activity, Childs also appreciates running for the interaction he has with other like-minded people.
“I like so many aspects of running, it’s relaxing, it’s mediative almost…you’re on your own,” Childs said. “At the same time, you get to meet so many people who share your interest in running, you get to know them and develop so many relationships.
“It’s not necessarily the pain I like,” he added with a laugh. “It’s the solitude and the camaraderie you get at the same time that I really enjoy.”
In addition to progressing as a runner over his five years at the University of Victoria, Childs has also earned an education and is on the verge of his degree in economics.
However, adding to the challenge of completing his degree will be the time frame of his trip to the FISU worlds. He leaves for Poland on April 9, the same day as his first final exam.
Such is the life of a busy and committed university athlete.
“It’s going to be tough, I’m probably going to have to write three or four as soon as I come back, without much time to study,” he said. “But (the world championships) is something I wouldn’t want to miss for anything.”
As for competing at the the world university cross and country championships, Childs isn’t sure what to expect or exactly what kind of goals to set, if any.
What he does plan to do is absorb his first international experience to the fullest.
“I’ve looked at from past results and they really vary quite a bit,” he said. “A lot of it can depend on what countries are there or aren’t there in a certain year.
“I don’t really know what to expect, so I’m just going to take it as it goes and do my best.
“I’ll be focused on the event and that’s what’s most important. But it’s my first trip to Europe, so I’ll try to experience that part of it a little bit, too.”
Prior to the world university championships, Childs will compete with the Vikes at the CIS national indoor championships in Winnipeg, March 8 to 12. Childs hopes to qualify in both the 1,500 and 3,000 metre events.