Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 257 - Cross Country

Man, I wish I'd run cross country when I was a kid.

I went to The Middle One's cross country meet this evening. Third meet of the season.

With each meet, I get more jealous.

The team environment is so different from Track. Everyone is in the same race. They're all in it together. They're racing each other. Even teammates are racing each other.

Being passed could mean your team loses. Being passed by a teammate could mean you get bumped from varsity.

Everyone starts together, spread out across a line in the grass. The gun goes off. The race begins.

It's one race, a hundred kids against each other. And it's also a hundred races, each kid against the clock, the course, himself.

The race unfolds over thousands of meters, thousands of footsteps, hundreds of decisions about how fast to go when. Do I push now, or hold back, saving it for later? Do I pass this kid here? Can I pass this kid? Is that other kid trying to pass me? Can I surge the uphill and still fly down? Is that kid fading? Is that other kid coming? How much do I have left? How much can I burn right now?

For some kids, it's a survival task. Just get to the finish line. Try not to be last, but no matter what, don't quit.

For other kids, a rare few, it's about winning. It's funny, there are so few runners who have ever won a race, yet every race has a winner.

For the vast majority in between the winner and the back of the pack, it's a game of chess played out in the woods, or across a field, with sweat, and dirt, and spit, and emotion, and grit. It's tense.

And yet, as I walked back to the team's camp after the race, my boy said, "Dad, I really like that all of the runners are such good sportsmen." He went on to tell me that in the finish shoot, the boy that he had just out-sprinted to the line put a hand on his shoulder and said, "Nice finish."

Runners are good people, even when they're just starting out.

Good running,

Numbers: 1.8 miles on the cross country course before the meet.