Twenty-six-year-old Javan Lapp runs with every chance that’s come his way: from becoming the first member of his family to finish college to being the first runner to cross the finish line of this year’s Blue Ridge Relay.
“I went to college to run,” said Lapp, whose lanky frame makes him easily identifiable as a runner. “I wouldn’t have gone if it weren’t for running. And if I’d never gone to college, I wouldn’t have gone to law school. Running led to my legal career.”
Lapp’s passion for running began with a book. Raised in a tight-knit Mennonite community in Ohio where television was forbidden, he read voraciously, which exposed him to topics that his private Mennonite school didn’t teach. He read Matt Christopher’s book Run, Bill, Run, a novel about children running track, and became fascinated with running around the playground faster than his Mennonite classmates.
When Lapp was in sixth grade, his parents divorced and his mom relocated her three children to Western North Carolina. For the first time, he attended public school and joined the cross country team. Lapp’s mom supported his running, rushing home from her job cleaning houses to pick him up from practice—cross country soon evolved into a year-round running regime including indoor, outdoor, and summer track. He ran throughout high school and began thinking about college as a way to continue racing. “College wasn’t on my radar until then,” Lapp explained.
When no coaches recruited Lapp as a collegiate athlete, he created his own opportunity and approached the coach of UNC-Charlotte before a track meet. The coach signed him after seeing Lapp on the track.
At UNC-Charlotte, he ran the 800 in 1:53.4. Initially, academics took a backseat to his collegiate running. By his junior year, Lapp started considering law school and ended up attending University of Cincinnati College of Law.
During law school, running became Lapp’s way of dealing with stress and while studying for the bar exam he sometimes ran two or three times a day. “I never expected to keep going after college. I loved racing, but I was never a fan of running in high school. I never expected to still be doing this every day” Lapp said.
Lapp returned to Western North Carolina to start his legal career and started running for Foot Rx. Lapp ran 15:43 for a 5k and 26.18 for an 8K. He also ran a mile in a blazing 4:09 at the Waynesville Main Street Mile, a fast course with some downhill. His mom also ran, finishing in 9:59. “It was fun to see my mom race. After I finished, I ran back and cheered her across the finish line.”
Lapp led off and anchored the Asheville Running Collective at this year’s Blue Ridge Relay. Relay teams consist of 12 runners rotating through 36 legs over two hundred miles of country roads. Starting in Grayson Highlands, Virginia, the course winds past scenic views of the New River, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Grandfather Mountain, and the Toe River before runners descend down Town Mountain and finish in Asheville.
Lapp secured an early lead for the team during the first leg of the relay, a steep downhill descent which he maintained a sub-five-minute pace. The team stayed ahead of the competition throughout the night when runners wear reflective gear and headlamps. But even with those aids, one of ARC’s best runners, Peyton Hoyle, stepped in a pothole on a steep 10.5 mile climb up Grandfather Mountain around 3 a.m. He hurt his Achilles tendon and pressed on during his second leg. After cooling down, he realized he might not be able to anchor the team down Town Mountain to the finish line in Asheville.
Meanwhile, Lapp was exhausted from his second leg, a brutal 9.5-mile climb up the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock. When Peyton announced that his Achilles wouldn’t permit him to go fast enough to maintain the team’s lead and sub-six-mile pace, Lapp stepped up to run. He secured another first place finish for ARC and kept the winner’s belt in Western North Carolina for another year with an unofficial time of 20:05:26, averaging 5:46 a mile.
When asked for what advice he’d give new runners, Lapp said, “Don’t make every run about beating your former best. Every day shouldn’t be race day. Get out there and relax on most of your runs.”
–Follow the Asheville Running Collective on the Facebook page to find out more about their regular runs. They invite all runners, regardless of speed, to join.