OTC Elite Week, Day 3:
Dives with Erik van Ingen
by The Trailer
EUGENE – Erik van Ingen is not afraid to leap if he has to.
“I don’t think getting beat, whether it’s at conference or NCAAs, sees a venue,” the 23-year-old says. “It’s the same as a footrace when you’re a kid, or racing bikes around the neighborhood.
“It’s raw competition. Diving just happens.”
Of course, it’s not like van Ingen, of Marathon, N.Y., dives all the time—at last count, he’s dived for the tape in a race only three times in his running career: once in high school, and twice as a Binghamton Bearcat. (If you’re wondering, he’s gone two for three, which seem like pretty good odds.)
But diving does happen, and the last time, in May during his final collegiate season, van Ingen was defending his America East 1,500m title from 2011. “There’s an obligation to the team,” he says, “and I need to get as many points for as I can for the team. But at the same time I need to expend as little energy as possible for myself.”
So van Ingen was “not up in everyone’s ass,” laying back and waiting for the pace to take its toll. He began moving up at 300 meters to go, but coming into the final straight, found himself farther back than he would have liked. He remembers thinking, “Oh, shit, this is not good.”
“If I lose it, that’s two points for our team, and of course my pride is on the line—big dog at the meet, I don’t want to lose an America East title,” he says. “So I’m hauling ass down the stretch, and I get to the line, and I was like, well, Erik, you’re an idiot.
“And I dove.”
What you need to know about diving for the tape is that there is no flash of Zen when you are weightless, pondering great questions of the universe and reciting Pi to the 235th degree. Van Ingen, in his three experiences, remembers not one tranquil moment when the world seemed slow-mo and the brush of the tape was the only sensation.
What you remember when diving for the tape, he says, is hitting the track. Hard.
“The deceleration is stunning, going from as fast as you can to nothing really quick,” he says. “And then you get up, thinking, oh, that was fine. You look down and see you’re all scraped up.”
After May’s dive, because of the weeping and oozing and pussing, van Ingen couldn’t wear jeans for a week. And then there were all the Superman jokes.
“I came back after the weekend on Monday and I’m in the training room, and our head trainer’s busting my balls about it,” he says. “It’s like, ‘Fine, ha ha ha, I get it.’”
But the same instinct that makes van Ingen dive is the same instinct that has made him great. Going to tiny Binghamton (irony: he actually transferred in after spending time at a smaller school his freshman year), he’s sent shockwaves across the country. His four All-American honors are the real deal.
With 3:38.06 and 3:56.37 1,500m and mile bests, van Ingen’s recruitment to the OTC Elite might seem obvious. But his willingness to dive—to win—make him most attractive. He dives for the tape; he dives across the country to Eugene, a risk with potentially a hard fall at its end.
He says, “Maybe I’ll stop doing stuff like that if races start getting judged on points or something instead of the time.
“People say, ‘Oh, you dove. You look like a jackass.’ But yeah, I dove, and I got what I wanted.”
Besides being a bomb-ass runner, Erik van Ingen is a filmmaker and photographer. His first documentary, The Real Maine, follows five collegiate runners through a summer of base training. Follow his art and his life on Twitter.
From photographer Donald Gruener‘s post-shoot email: “Erik was natural and comfortable, which I know very well is not easy for someone who’s used to being behind the camera. I gave him very little direction—the photos are truly collaborative.”