Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Religion of Cross Country

Ian had his second Cross Country invitational this season. It is an inspiring sight, seeing all those kids getting psyched, channeling all the hard work and training into 20-25 minutes of pure, honest effort. It is a family atmosphere, and everyone cheers for everyone. They just cheer a little louder for their school.

From the elite sub-20 finishers to the last struggling, straggling freshman, everyone is in the same family. They are bound together by a culture, and since the root of the meaning of the word religion is "to bind together," it does fit in here is a religion as much as a sport.

One of the fun things about XC folks is the variety of positive messages on their t-shirts. They're usually one of a few themes.

First, Cross Country is harder than your sport. That's because with a few exceptions, most sports have breathers. Football players exert themselves for 10-15 seconds, then rest for 30. Most of the high school kids I saw today could run circles around most professional football players (especially linemen).

Second, some sort of "if you can read this, you're behind me." Those taunting messages are more common on young women, interestingly. Probably because they are way more likely to print things on their posterior region.

Third, something inspirational; about finding your limits and exceeding them. These are my favorites. They can be considered trite, but I can tell you that from observing coaches, parents and runners, they all believe this. You are better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can. If everyone could absorb that into their brains, what sort of world would this be? Probably a lot better one.

These are good kids, the sort you want your kids to hang out with. The XC parties are pretty sedate -- cases of Sprecher root beer and massive quantities of pasta in all forms. No alcohol. A pretty decent crowd of folks playing Wii, usually DDR. Lots of laughing and goofing around. And they end early...last night's party was wrapping up around nine so people could get to bed by ten.

Anyway...Ian had a great race, took a minute off his personal best on a tough, hilly course and felt good about it. His friend Brandon did very well too, so they were both pretty high on life after the meet. We took them to Culvers and they ate like boys eat after a XC Meet.

I'm awfully proud of my boy. He had a tough freshman year in XC, but he hung in there, was helped a lot by his buddy Brandon, who is a year ahead of Ian and has another year of experience. He talks to Ian about how to train better, about pacing and strategy in a race, and about perserverence and tenacity. In short, a good peer coach, and I think the world of Brandon. He's had a tough home life but you'd never know it from his demeanor, always cheerful and positive. He has been and will continue to be a great friend to Ian, I'm sure.
Mom was proud too.

Respectfully submitted,



Bryan said...

I had a friend Brandon in XC. His father was an abusive alcoholic, and he'd often come and stay with my family. He worked harder than anyone on the team, and even though he wasn't the fastest in the 5k, he made me work harder and harder. I got to state in XC and 3200 for track, and Brandon got the 400 and 800, then joined the Navy and now he's a doctor. Something said for the hard working Brandons...we could all learn a few things. Thanks for taking me back!

Nat said...

Way to go, Ian! I'm sad we didn't end up getting to one of his meets before we moved.

Your point about XC runners being a good crowd in high school jives with my experience (though I wasn't one of them).

I hope your house has recovered from our invasion. We miss you guys!