This is officially my last year of running competitively in school, that means no more Cross Country or Track in college or anywhere else for that matter. Why? I’m thinking I’ll be a little busy writing stories while attaining a degree–doing fourteen miles a day and stretching takes away some precious time.
That said, I wanted to perform a sort of tribute to the whole shebang of running like a maniac–and some people do call me a crazy man. The feelings never seem to go away, which is what I’m clinging to, hoping I’ll at least remember some of my best races when I’m in my seventies and living in a retirement home.
I have had my fair share of good times and places; but, to me, what matters most is the race itself. The pounding of hundreds of shoes on the dirt or the asphalt or the track. Heavy breathing right behind you, or even beside you. An explosion in your chest: the aftermath of a thousand atomic bombs detonated inside your lungs.
See, I started running in seventh grade. It was not at first my choice; in actuality, my mother persuaded me to join the Cross Country team at my middle school. This meant instead of spending weekends playing video games and/or reading, I had to be out on the road, with my mom, jogging a mile and a half. I would hardly even call my style jogging–at the point I was about as fast a hog when it sees a corn cob on the other side of its sty. My mom beat me every time we went outside.
Then, I joined the Cross Country team, a newbie with glasses and a horrid running form; and, of course, I got fifth place on Varsity. Wait, what? Rewind. You made Varsity as a runner with no experience and the worst form of all the members on the team? Insane! Impossible!
Yes, exact same thing I said; but, guess what, once I got the place, I was determined to keep it, even if it meant tripping over a hill at my first race and scraping my arm–hey, I didn’t cry–and finishing at about the middle of the pack. But it was exhilarating. I wanted to go again and again and again. And I told myself I would…until somebody told me I could not.
Hint: they never did.
I found some of my best friends, even I’d say, my best friend, while running. They stuck by me. I stuck by them. We had fun–excuse me, are still having fun; although, not all of my friends have stayed the line of running. That doesn’t mean we’re not still friends–but now I can’t fart everywhere and have them punch me on the arm.
Back in middle school, about a year after I started running, I was one of the top dogs, along with a couple of my friends, and I felt like the bomb. But don’t we all? Then cut to high school. Instantly my throne was shattered and I became a frightened puppy because the hounds were whupping my ass.
I had to relearn what it felt like to be tiny, a smaller runner in the shadow of those better runners; but one thing I never did was tell myself I could not beat them. So what they were faster now? Give me some time and I’d be right beside them, maybe ahead of them. A couple I did beat. Others I did not beat. I still gave it my best shot at each go.
That’s what I tell the other runners to do–to give it their all and not care whether another guy is faster than them, because it is in them to be faster than the opposite runner. I know most look up to me now, things like that humble you, they really do; and it is always hilarious to watch how shocked they are to find out I was in their shoes when I first started.
This is to those runners.
This is to Cross Country.
This is to Track.
This is to anyone who told me I could do whatever I wanted.
I’ll miss you.
Note: I’m the one who looks like he got punched in the gut.