Tuesday 9 September 2008

To Give Less than Your Best is to Sacrifice the Gift.

Most XC runners will tell you that they like the simplicity of the sport. It's not decked out with fancy skills you need to possess, or crazy rules and regulations or overtimes. You don't have to worry about being first string or second string or whatever. You just run as fast as you can for 5K, or 3.1 miles. That's pretty much it.

Although others might not see it this way, most XC runners feel it is the sport of all sports. It's the ultimate work out. It's pure effort. The score of any soccer, football, or baseball game does not always reflect your personal effort. Your XC time is a measurement of exactly how hard you pushed that day. The only excuse for a slightly worse time is a slightly tougher course (1). In XC, you have a decision everytime you get on the starting line: to run somewhat hard, or run as hard as you can. If you don't decide ahead of time to give every single ounce of energy you have, to push until it hurts more than it has before, then you don't win.

Winning in XC is not as black and white as with other sports. Personally, to me, the score means almost nothing. I think the unspoken goal of Cross Country is to give so much energy, so much effort, that at the end, you have literally no life left in you. Yes, I believe that in a crazy, twisted sense, the only true way to win an XC race is to actually die as you cross the finish line. (2) If you're still alive, you did not try hard enough. If you can talk a minute after the race, you certainly were not putting enough effort out. If you can comprehend anything anyone is saying for an hour afterward, you need to push more next time.

So every race we try to push a little harder, hurt a little more, and get ourselves a little closer to dying. Ironically, nothing can make you feel more alive. The blood is rushing through your veins faster than it ever has. Your heart is pounding out of control. Your lungs are totally freaking out, and you are soaked with sweat. The result is this crazy, natural, runner's high. Literally, you get high. The endorphins (3) rush to your head and all of a sudden Jack's shoes make you crack up histerically, or Jake's candy bars that he bought become so incredibly interesting that you don't know what to do with yourself. To share this with a group of people you care about is amazing. It's the reason I do cross country; there is nothing like stretching with a bunch of girls I love after pushing our bodies to the limit and getting high in the process. We sit around talking about everything... about Casey's creepy boyfriends (4,5), about Coach L (6), sometimes we plan our weddings (7). I find it hard to believe I will ever be as close to a group of people as I am with my team.

I raced about three hours ago now. Let me tell you, not every XC runner is in it to push themself. There is nothing. NOTHING. that pisses me off more than girls who walk during races. Slow, out of shape girls are one thing... but this girl was in front of me. She clearly was not totally out of shape, she was just lazy. Every uphill she would walk, put her hands over her head, lift her singlet a bit because it was apparently too hot out for her. I'd push hard up the hill, catch up to her, pass her... and then the bitch would sprint the downhill. There is more. We run down a massive hill that an ampitheatre is located on... and she apparently could not wait to pass me at any other point in the race. It had to be then. Because this freak sprinted down the hill, and would you believe it, hurdles the benches on the hill to pass me. Her foot catches on one of the benches but she didn't fall*. She made this crazy grunt as she did it too, and it freaked me out. All of a sudden, on this already crazy down hill, someone is freaking flying at me over a bunch of benches. What the frick. Honestly. Cross country hurdles??? Go play soccer. Crazy freakin' stunts are not part of this sport.(8)

I'm extremely proud to say that I did end up beating her by about a minute - which is a pretty good distance. Let me say, though - had she passed me at the end, I still would have considered it a win. To walk during the race is not running this sport. It's not something you can be proud of, ever. I'm glad to say that, although I did not get that Hornell girl or the Notre Dame girl, I will not lose any sleep tonight. I ran my race, I didn't walk it. Also, L is way proud of me, and that's pretty much my unspoken goal of any race.

1. L is officially Satan, as the course he made for this year suuuuucks.
2. Dying before you cross the finish line also constitutes a win, however, it is much less dramatic.
3. Casey found out that there is a real, chemical reason why you get high in races a few days ago, and won't stop talking about it.
4. Most of which were picked up during XC pre-race runthroughs.
5. These relationships are occasionally used to obtain useful information about other teams we compete with.
6. We love him.
7. Often involving the girls team as bridesmaids, and one of the boys team as a groom.
8. Although I think now that Eddie is doing this, crazy stunts may be an everyday occurance.

To anyone who cares. I got my PR Saturday of 28:20, and today I got 29:07 on a much tougher course, and that is wicked awesome for me. Saturday's time was seven minutes faster than the same course three years ago.

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