When I sat down to write an article for this month I drew a blank. Should I talk about the 1 Year Anniversary or maybe our upcoming radio show? Then it hit me, Cross Country. This month student after student came in with their (usually indifferent/confused) parents to purchase their first pair of training shoes and sometimes their first pair of spikes. I found myself getting giddy when I had a newbie here who was taking the plunge into the wonderful sport of cross country. I was so happy to get to show a new runner how to use a cross country wrench and about why such a shoe even exists. I have mentioned my old high school coach before but it goes without saying that without Mr. Link I don’t know what direction my life would have taken.
When I was in high school in the mid 90’s every Summer involved a trip to our local running shop, Racket and Jog (now called R&J) to pick out my new cross country shoes. I would wait until the Fall Shoe Buyers Guide from Runners World would come out and I’d have the shoes I wanted to try all picked out before we left the house. I would bring my magazine to the shop and attempt to talk running with the staff. Once I was equipped with my new gear our unsanctioned summer practices commenced at a hilly state park near my school. My mornings and evenings were spent running with friends. Friends that I still talk to and friends that I shared 100 degree days charging up dirt trails all summer long. We would run twice a day and spend all the time between the runs hanging out or watching the Olympics in Atlanta before heading out for more running followed by more hanging out.
It makes me so happy to know these Summer rituals still exist and that year after year kids are out doing virtually the same thing I was doing 20 years ago. Runners are a different breed of student athlete and I remember at times feeling like an outsider and being involved in a sport “where you just run around.” My coach taught us to embrace our niche lifestyle and feel proud to be runners. He made running feel cool and mainstream sports like football and lacrosse to feel lame. One of my favorite things my coach did was run to the main office every time there was bad weather and other sports were canceled to make sure they knew cross country practice was still on. I remember awful storms outside or even snow during indoor track and during last period someone would come over the loud speaker to announce that football, soccer, cheerleading, golf and every other sport practices were canceled for the day due to inclement weather. Then there would be a pause followed by “cross country…still on.” It made us tough and formed strong bonds as we went out and ran in awful weather and helped us develop the mindset that there are no days off in running. It also helped us learn to not make excuses for anything come race day.
Those lessons still live on in many of us adults and not just from my school. I love seeing people out running during bad weather or on big holidays. I feel like runners in general have a giant chip on their shoulder and we can channel it when we need to when it comes to everyday running and then into life. We are breed to believe that if you work hard, every day, that you will see improvement. I carry that with me and I know it comes from my summers running cross country.
So this Fall thousands of kids will start their own journey of discovery in fields and woods all over and I hope they can carve out their own sense of pride and learn a little about themselves in the process. Joining and sticking with cross country was the best thing I ever did. Without it I would never have made it to college which lead me to Baltimore which lead me to my old job which lead me to my wife which lead me to start a family which lead me here to Run Moore. Good luck this season and don’t forget: it’s rude to count the people you pass. Out loud.