I might only have one cross country practice left. I might also have more than a week of practice left. Either way, I don’t have that many practices left. But this has only intensified my feelings for the sport. It has made me love it even more.

I complain a lot about cross country. I complain about how no one else in our school cares, how no one comes to our meets to support us, how almost no one knows our school has a cross country team, or even knows what cross country is. I complain about how we have one of the smallest sports teams in the school and how no one pays attention to us. But really, I don’t think I’d want it any other way. I love how cross country is its only little sport. I love how hardly anyone goes out for cross country, because it means that the majority of the people of the team really care about the sport. I wouldn’t even want a large team because I love how it’s just us. I love how the rest of the school thinks we are amazing superhumans because they don’t really know anything about cross country. I love how other sports teams both look down and look up to us. I even love when people ask me why I participate in the sport, although it kind of bothers me. It’s like they are both confused and impressed with us.

I love being able to do one of the things I love best with people who are some of my best friends. I love how I know all these personal things about my teammates but I barely talk to them in school. Before and after a race, people share all kinds of things they’d tell no one else, even though its their true selves. I love the races, seeing the colorful, long lines of people stretched out across the fields. I love cheering my teammates on, and cheering other people on, just because they run cross country. I love riding the bus after meets and laughing with my teammates. I love hearing people cheer for me. I love how we congratulate each other after the race and how you don’t have to win to do your best. I love how we run in all kinds of weather and just deal with it. I love how it is just one race but also many races. I love how it is an individual yet team sport. How everyone counts on you but you count on everyone.

I love practices. I even look forward to most of them. I love the track workouts, the long runs, the tempo runs, and everything else. I love running around the lake, knowing that I can do anything because I am a cross country runner. I love seeing the creepers on the trail and speeding up as you pass them. I love getting out of the way of bikes and dogs. I love looking down the trail at the yellow dashed lines painted on the asphalt as the sun shines above. I love running with the leaves crunching under my feet. I love losing what feels like gallons of sweat while knowing the person next to you might be sweating even more. I love running in the rain, looking at each other knowing that both of you are going to jump into the puddles to splash each other. I love how you can act like a 5 year old on rainy runs. I love knowing you are almost done with your run but I also love when you know that you are just beginning.

I love knowing that I’m not the only one who has a whole wardrobe of running shirts. I love that I can easily convert miles to kilometers or meters and calculate any kind of split. I love knowing that my teammates will be there for me no matter what. I love knowing that my running shoes and socks might smell but I’m not the only one. I love being able to wring the water and sweat out of my clothes after practice. I love how this sports gives back even more than the great amount you put into it. I love how it changes you and makes you into yourself.

I love looking off into the distance, hearing the steady beat of my feet hitting the ground, knowing that I am a cross country runner. I love having this place to belong. I love cross country. Even more than I thought I could.