Here’s the deal. As a youngster, I attended an alternative, no grades, hold hands and dance in the fields type of school. Then I went to a public high school. My parents were concerned about me making the transition and wanted to find a way for me to make some friends before school started. When they discovered that Cross Country running began weeks before the school year, they decided to sign me up. Granted, I subtly voiced my opinion with such nuanced hints as, “No, please dear God don’t make me go run around in circles with those strange kids.” But they knew I needed the extra time to socialize.
What they failed to take into account is that it’s difficult to carry on a conversation when you’re gasping for breath.
For those of you unfamiliar with this “sport,” it is a 3.1 mile race over natural terrain. Which just means that the course can go pretty much anywhere – over open fields, down the road, up wooded trails, and through the occasional 7-11.
Here’s the cool thing about Cross Country running. It starts out as a run…then, after awhile, it turns into a run…following this, the athletes transition to a run…and it ends with a nice run.
In other words, there is nothing cool about Cross Country running.
Here is how our “coach” would train us (and, no, I’m not making this up), he would put the team in the back of his pickup truck and drive us 3.1 miles away from the school. And leave us there. He would then return to the school in the comfort of his vehicle and wait for us to run back.
And did I mention – I’d never run before. Unless, of course, someone was chasing me. And that didn’t come up very often. So I was the worst runner on the team. At the beginning of each practice, my parents would be happy to know, I socialized with the back of my teammate’s heads, as I called out, “Hey, wait up! And where the hell are you going with the pickup truck? Is this legal?”
And the actual races weren’t any better. The main difference was that instead of me running with my seven teammates who were faster than me, I was running with thirty or forty guys who were faster than me. The starting gun would blast and I would somehow instantly find myself in last place. It was about nine second into any given race that I would begin to ask myself why I was there. Finally, some forty minutes later, I would arrive at the finish line…my teammates and all of the spectators long since having gone home.
I still don’t know what the point is. What a crazy name for a sport – Cross Country running. One shouldn’t run across a country, that’s what trains, planes and automobiles are for (that, and reminiscing about John Candy).
So, how am I going to do it? How will I put an end to this child abuse pretending to be an athletic event? I already put an end to it. I put an end to it sophomore year. Then I became one of the theater kids. Where I could act like I was a Cross Country runner, without any of the actual running.