Whenever I mention running, 99.999% of the time people will grimace dramatically, and then most likely terminate our friendship. They reject running even before I’ve asked them to take a run with me. To a lot people, running implies hours of sweat, discomfort, and obviously death (I’ve never run more than eight miles, so I can’t speak on behalf of marathoners). Thankfully for all of the future cross country runners, spectators, and skeptics, I’m here to dismiss most of your common fears and preconceptions; hopefully, I can bring some of my own positive insight from more than three years of running girls LCXC.
First, I shall run through the technicalities. Contrary to popular belief, cross country is more than simply organized running. While we follow a training schedule, each day is not pure misery intended to break our wills to live. With meets each Saturday, cross country runners train five days, race one day, and rest one day. Between distance runs, easy runs, and hard workouts, we run about 15-30 miles per week. Although I often complain, I cannot imagine myself participating in any other sport. Each hard workout is really a reward in itself; you can’t feel that kind of self-appreciation until you’ve run up six “big mama” hills, consecutively. Ask any XC-er and she or he will inform you of the hill’s magnitude. As for distance and easy runs, many of us utilize these runs to rant, to laugh, and to have surprisingly deep conversations. Though strenuous, training gives otherwise lazy teenagers (like me) the ability to run great distances with great friends.
Like other teams, our bus rides are full of nervous conversation, singing, and sleeping, but our “games” do not compare to those of any other sport. Each course we run is about a 5k, or 3.1 miles. For girls on our own team, the time we spend running this distance is between 19 and 35 minutes. From gathered intel, girls spend this time reciting Mrs. Purdy’s famous mantras, singing one song over and over again in their head, counting footsteps until 3,000 and then starting over again, and utilizing literally every other distracting device that has ever existed. During meets, I am met with my worst fear, the fear of competition. However, each meet, to my own surprise, I can barely contain my excitement for the race to come. Running with a pack (2-5 girls of similar pace), passing other girls, beating a PR…these are just a few moments that bring cross country runners so much happiness. And, as an added bonus, I get the unequivocal luxury of wearing my bright, colorful spikes that make me feel light, fast, and capable.
Clearly, cross country is a lot of relative reward; we work hard, but the gains are tremendous. With each cramp, stitch, ache, and pain, comes badge of honor, rewarding us for our fearlessness and perseverance in the face of dread and discomfort. Of course, not all races are a beautiful story of triumph and glory; there unavoidably will be races that remain out of our control. Whether it’s something we ate, a lingering injury, or just an “off” day, a bad race is greeted with first disappointment but later acceptance. While you will see that most cross country runners can recount their “bad” races in bitter detail, we also recognize that our bad races make our good races that much better.
Another unique thing that XC offers is our food. Other than perhaps the football team, I doubt the existence of another team on campus that eats as much as we do. After every meet, we naturally expect the day student parents to shower us with cookies, apples, and, if we’re lucky, Bill Pieroni’s macaroons from Whole Foods. In order to run the distances we run at such a high caliber, we absolutely need a healthily excessive amount of food. So, not to name any names, the small girl walking past you with two plates of spaghetti, three brownies, four apples and a cup of chocolate milk is, of course, a member of XC.
I’ll leave you future cross country runners with one last take away, and one of my favorite things about cross country: my team. Since we go through such difficult training together, I think that all cross country runners have an indestructible bond, a sisterhood. Whether on varsity, JV, or the injured squad (of course it’s a thing, this is cross country), an XC runner cannot deny the camaraderie. We might be the thieves of each other’s watches, hair ties, and food, but we’re also each other’s source of encouragement, support, positivity when it comes to challenging courses. With the little breath we have during races, a simple, “nice *GASP* job,” can mean the world. And yes, of COURSE you can join next year, for the trail’s capacity will never be filled.