From the Sports Blog: Meet Blake Bolden

Once, Blake Boldon decided to play pickup basketball with some of the athletes he coached. The word once needs to be emphasized here because it never happened again.

“When we lost, I couldn’t sleep that night,” Boldon said. “Just losing, I can’t handle it. It’s not part of my fiber.”

As the new head coach of Penn’s men’s and women’s cross country programs, Boldon will try to infuse that winning attitude into his runners. And considering the kind of pedigree he has, the runners will almost certainly listen.

After a mediocre start to his own track career—the Iowa-born Boldon said he wasn’t very good in high school and didn’t even make the travel team for regional championships when he first got to Missouri State University—Boldon emerged as one of the top distance runners in the country, placing in the top 10 at the United States Track & Field Championships four times and joining the elite fraternity of men who have run a mile in less than four minutes. 

“I wasn’t an extraordinary athlete,” the 31-year-old Boldon said. “I made my living on beating people I probably I shouldn’t have. I was never an Olympian, but any time an Olympian lined up next to me, I had a good shot at him.”

His own underdog story will certainly serve him well in his new role, especially when he has to break the news to a runner that they’re not making a trip for a big meet. His competitive drive should also be a boon to the program—although Boldon realizes there has to be a detachment when you’re coaching and not competing. That way, he’ll still be able to sleep, even after tough losses.

“If I’m losing sleep right now, it’s not because I’m worried about losing,” Boldon said. “It’s because I’m excited about where we are headed.”

—For more on this story and others, visit the magazine’s sports blog:

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