Seeing the world: West Forsyth’s Serang’s passion for running sent her to Iceland this past summer
Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 5, 2023
By Jay Spivey
For the Clemmons Courier
Junior LuLu Serang runs on the girls cross-country team at West Forsyth. And sure, many runners have done that over the years.
However, it’s highly doubtful that many runners in the history of West Forsyth cross-country love running so much that they would travel the world looking for any unusual place to run. But Serang did just that this past summer.
Serang’s parents, including her dad, Andrew, who is an English teacher at West Forsyth and former swimming coach there, mother, Staci, as well as LuLu’s friend and senior teammate, Abby Reutinger, were looking for a place to celebrate Reutinger’s upcoming senior year at West Forsyth.
Of all places, LuLu and Reutinger chose to run a 5K (3.1 miles) this past June in Reykjavik, Iceland.
“I promised Abby that I would do a race with her before her graduation this year (June 2024), and so we were looking for marathons, actually,” Serang said. “And then we found a 5K in Iceland. And we just decided to do it, and we did it this June.”
Serang, who is an only child, and Reutinger were also looking for a place to run where they could also have a cultural experience.
“Originally, it started just because we were looking for a cool destination run,” Serang said. “But when you find one in Iceland, and you decide to go there, it was such an incredible experience.”
When the Serangs and Reutinger first arrived in Reykjavik, they were quite taken by it.
“It’s so hard to describe because it’s so breathtakingly gorgeous,” Serang said. “And everyone is so nice. It was such an amazing experience.”
The four arrived there three days before the summer solstice, which is June 21, meaning the sun is out most of the day at that latitude. They left on June 24, three days after the solstice. According to timeandate.com, on June 21, the sun set in Reykjavik at 12:03 a.m. and rose at 2:55 a.m., meaning there were less than three hours of darkness.
“It was really cool because we would go out for walks at like 9:30 (p.m.), and it was still super-bright outside,” Serang said. “But everywhere you went, they had blackout curtains so you could sleep.”
The city was full of places to visit.
“We stayed in the country and in the city,” Serang said. “And I liked how in the country you could go like miles without seeing massive settlements. And if you went into town, you had this cute little functional, amazing town in the city. The city was really nice. It was very different than I thought it was going to be, but once you were in it, it was like a culture explosion.”
Serang’s parents and Reutinger also had plenty to take from the experience.
“It was so fun,” Serang said. “I think my parents wanted to go because it’s such a cool kind of crazy experience. Abby and I had so much fun. We would go out and run in the morning.
“And the actual race experience was crazy because there was a ton of people from like many, many, many different countries.”
The day of the 5K finally arrived, meaning LuLu Serang and Reutinger could run the 3.1 miles and just soak in all that was happening around them.
“Every time you get to meet different people from different places, you get to see a little bit about what their life is like and what they like to do and what is sort of normal for them that might not be normal for us,” Serang said. “It was really cool to hear, like in any given place, you would probably hear 15 different languages being spoken because Iceland has a small population. It’s only 100,000 more people than Winston.”
According to Google, the population of Iceland in 2023 is 375,318, and the population of Winston-Salem is 252,274.
“I didn’t realize, going there, we were going to hear Icelandic, so we didn’t know how prominent it was,” Serang said. “But everyone from Iceland pretty much, all they speak is Icelandic and English.”
LuLu Serang and Reutinger ran in the 5K, and running is their passion.
“I’m trying to remember how many people were in the race. It was a lot of people,” Serang said. “But it was at midnight, so it’s a midnight fun run. It was at midnight, and it was light out and nice. And it was actually really cold on the day of the race. But it was so much fun. You have to run around Reykjavik, so we got to see things that we hadn’t seen earlier on our trip.
“And I thought it was really cool because it was such a local experience. It wasn’t a touristy thing; it was just like something they do here.”
Following the run, the four still had a chance to enjoy a couple of days in Iceland.
“I think the day after, we went out to dinner and just walked around in the city, and it was really nice,” Serang said. “A bunch of the times we went out to dinner, and we went to this pub place. And they had really good fish and chips because it’s so fresh. They have so much water and so much cold water. But Reykjavik is like right on the water, so you could look out at the ocean, which was really cool.”
Returning home, Serang has had more of an appreciation for her experience in a far-off place this past summer.
“When I was telling people about it, I was mostly talking to the runners (at West Forsyth) about it,” she said. “And they were really excited to see what we did … it was cool to talk to them about it because when you do running, specifically cross-country, you’re out running in the world.
“It’s not always fascinating or interesting, but running there was so beautiful … they like to hear about that. And I think in the past few months, I’ve been so grateful that I’ve been able to have that experience.”
Not only was the chance of running, and running in another country special, she had a chance to experience it with her parents and her best friend.
“It was good because we’re reflecting on talking to the new freshmen about it,” she said.
Although not specifically about her trip to Iceland, Serang’s coach at West Forsyth, Nathan Newsome, sees her passion for running daily.
“Her dad works there (West Forsyth), and he had told me that she was a swimmer, and she enjoyed the running part and had gotten into it a little bit and had experienced some success right away,” Newsome said. “So, it just seemed like a natural progression getting more involved and getting more serious with the training — just figuring it would continue to be a good thing for her to do. She’s been one of our better runners, one of our top runners ever since she’s gotten there. So, she has been a welcome addition from that standpoint.”
When you have a parent who teaches at the school you attend, there’s the chance you might get them as a teacher. Serang has her dad as a teacher this year in AP language and composition.
“There were a few emotions about that,” she said. “I honestly really enjoy having him as a teacher. He’s a really good teacher, and I really love his class. I was a little bit nervous about how other students would receive it, but they don’t think that it’s going to affect that class at all, and it won’t.”
Newsome has an eye for people loving the sport, whether it be cross-country or track-and-field.
“I detected that it was something that she wants to do well at,” he said.
“You know, she’s good at making sure she gets done what she needs to get done, and even when she’s looking for a good training partner, she’s been running some with some of the boys this year, which has been good, trying to get a good match for her. She just manages it really well.”
Serang also plans to return to her childhood roots of swimming this winter for West Forsyth. She plans to compete in both swimming and indoor track and field.
“Somebody that excels in both, you know that if you can work it out, you try to do that,” Newsome said. “And I have found that swimming and running, the fitness tends to complement each other. So, then, it’s just managing the schedule. When they’re working with the school situation versus the club stuff, usually the parties involved are a little bit more compliant, you know, and they try to help work it out.”
Cross-country season ends in early November, and indoor track-and-field and swimming begin practice on Oct. 30.
“Before I go into it, I like to approach with like I figure out how it’s going to work,” she said. “I like to have it put together.”