As I stand on the line shaking with nerves, I repeatedly tell myself that I’ll be strong and push myself as hard as possible. But as soon as the gun goes off a battle begins inside my head, it goes something like this: “This hurts, why bother?” “It is going to hurt if you are going to do well! Just keep going” “No, this hurts!” “Keep going.” “I don’t want to.” “It doesn’t matter, you have to!” During a good race I manage to push this argument aside and focus on my strategy.
Every person has a different strategy. One of mine is to pick off girls one at a time. In my head I think, “That girl has too much hair, it’s weighing her down, I should pass her.” And then I do. Or, “That girl is breathing funny, pass her.” And then I do. There is also a lot of technical strategy, like surprising an opponent by passing them on a curve when they can’t see you coming; catch them off guard and you are likely to mentally defeat them, or running close enough behind someone that they block a head-wind for you.
Despite what you might think from my description thus far, running cross-country is actually wonderful. The team spirit is a huge part of the fun. But for many of us, races are where the entire thrill comes from and our deep love for the sport.
You cross that start-line as the gun goes off and within minutes everything hurts, every inch of your body is screaming at you to stop, but somehow, for some reason, you keep going. During a well-run race you sprint across the finish line with the very last ounce of energy in your body. Sometimes you collapse, throw-up, feel like complete garbage with drool streaked across your face. But strangely enough, that is the best way to feel. As the pain fades a feeling of utter satisfaction seeps into its place. If you had any energy left, you would be mad at yourself. But you don’t, you utilized every ounce of power in your body. It is a great day. And that, dear reader, is the beauty of running a cross-country race.