My Cross Country Is… verse from 2015 was well received so why not follow it up with a sequel? May your summer training be cool, wet and weirdly wonderful.
Cross Country is that deep intellectual conversation you and your teammates have with your coach about farting while on an early-morning training run.
Cross Country is a life-long sport that teaches discipline, self-sacrifice and team goals that you will rely on many years after your last race is run.
Cross Country is the post-race treats table lovingly prepared by your parents that silently awaits the ravaging attack of zombie runners brought back to life by bagels, Fruit Loops, bananas and those quickly disappearing glazed donuts.
Cross Country is the parents of the varsity runners hiding a stash of glazed donuts from the freshmen and JV teams so they too have a box of heaven to devour.
Cross Country teaches us that you can catch up to that bobbing singlet in front of you – but only if you have done the work. There is no catching up on a lost practice.
Cross Country is pools of sweat so deep on every surface of your body that your eyes scream from the salt and your shoes squish and squeak with every stride.
Cross Country is the work you do in the winter, spring and summer to prepare for how happy or sad your post-meet bus rides home will be in the fall.
Cross Country is that one coach who thinks they are one of the kids who none of the kids thinks is one of the kids.
Cross Country is losing to that skinny kid with the glasses and baggy green shorts at the first freshman meet and then friending him on Facebook senior year to make sure you stay in touch after high school.
Cross Country is that plaque on the gymnasium wall with the school-record-holder’s name and 5K time etched upon it that you think about even on your most miserable training runs.
Cross Country is that bitter north headwind that would end your winter practice run before it began if not for your shivering teammates at your side trudging forward.
Cross Country is that bolt of pride stirring in your chest when you see your old high school’s name on the t-shirts of a pack of XC kids out in the neighborhood on an after-school training run.
Cross Country is a set of parents, bundled against the cold, marveling as their child runs past them with a look of determination they have never seen.
Cross Country is nothing like you thought it would be.
Cross Country is about teaching yourself to accept denial. You deny yourself Dairy Queen. You deny yourself McDonald’s. You deny yourself late-night Netflix. All in an effort to be lighter, stronger, faster, better.
Cross Country is feeling like you forgot how to run one morning and the next day you somehow feel as if you can fly.
Cross Country is knowing you will never beat that one person you have never beaten. Ever. And then you do!
Cross Country is walking the halls of your high school as unknown Clark Kent on Friday and then racing at Saturday’s XC meet like Superman.
Cross Country is those first summer freshman practices running with strange kids from other junior highs who seem too weird to ever be someone you could like – and somehow they become someone you love.
Cross Country is running past the football team as they head from the locker room to the practice field and wondering how they can even move wearing all that stuff.
Cross Country is a sweaty embrace of a disposed yet worthy opponent as you both shed tears in the finish chute.
Cross Country is a pair of new training shoes that you are sure will be the envy of all who view them from the rear.
Cross Country is painful in a way that makes you hate the training, dread the heat, abhor the hills and despise the never-ending work that awaits each dawn. But each day you rise and thrust your body back into the flames.
Cross Country is that picture you carry in your mind throughout the race of you finishing and deeply drinking every bottle of ice-cold Gatorade you can find until your brain freezes solid.
Cross Country is tricking yourself into getting out of a comfy bed by envisioning your competition already two miles into their morning run.
Cross Country is that race photo of yourself where you look like your grandmother. And you’re a dude.
Cross Country is that one coach who doesn’t understand you until you’re a senior.
Cross Country is learning that the only real judge of your work is your conscience.
Cross Country is pushing yourself to do what you have never done – and then doing it again next Saturday.
Greg Hall / [email protected]