There is a quote by Sting that I think best fits what being on cross-country means to me. It says, “Maybe all it takes is just one person to believe in what you are doing to give you the confidence to keep trying.” For the past four years of running on the cross-country team, of gaining new friends, running countless practices, and experiencing all the ups and downs every season has brought, I know I will leave the sport with confidence in myself. Running has been more to me than just seeing how fast I can run, or who I can beat. It has been a chance for me to prove to myself what I am capable of doing when I give it my all. It is from the belief of my teammates and my coaches, that I have learned to believe in myself. My teammates are more than just my teammates, they have become my best friends. Coach Meiser is not just my coach, but someone I look up to as a role model. My team has become like family to me. Cross-country has been my security blanket while trying to survive high school. And as sad as it will be to leave my team after this season, I know that I have gained more than I could have ever asked for. I will be leaving cross-country with friendships that will last a lifetime, lessons I could have only learned through the trials I have experienced, and most important, the timeless memories. It is hard to let go of something you are so use to, something you love so much. For cross-country has meant so much more than just running to me. It has meant discovering the confidence within me, and learning to believe in myself.
I’m going to take the term “cross country” to mean the sport of Cross Country rather than literally running from one part of the nation to another. I apologize if I’ve misunderstood your question.
Cross Country is initially difficult for most of my new runners (often fourteen year olds). Distance running requires aerobic endurance that sedentary kids just don’t have, nor do kids whose parents have driven them around town in cars rather than having walked or ridden a bike to places. Most kids want to run too fast in the beginning, as those who have played other sports have learned to “go all out” instead of pacing themselves as is necessary in distance running. Lastly, Cross Country is a fitness sport that requires dedication; only time spent exercising aerobically can improve the body’s circulatory and muscular systems, and it takes time to build the fitness necessary to compete. Running during this time might feel tedious, boring, exhausting, and excruciating (especially in the lungs).
But oh, for the people who devote enough time to training in a sequenced and logical program to see the benefits! Cross Country is great! Distance running takes you places that other people cannot go … geographically, intellectually, physically, and emotionally. My runners and I train in a very hilly place on horse trails; we do not come across many pedestrians there, and we get some pretty great views of the Pacific Ocean and the L.A. basin all to ourselves. Studies show that aerobic training is good for the brain and body (think oxygen-enriched blood being delivered to more areas of your body than people who do not train aerobically). Also, for those who train alone, having quiet time to yourself enhances self-reflection and can lead to a zen-like state and balanced emotions. Last but not least, I find that the training and team bonding that comes from being on the Cross Country team helps generate feelings of accomplishment and camaraderie that can last a lifetime. I have people whom I coached who still run, still compete, and still attend each other’s weddings. Few sports are both as individual and as team oriented as Cross Country.
Not everyone has the right physical makeup for this sport, but I would love for people to find out for themselves rather than assume they couldn’t do it!
Whether you run fast or slow, JV, or Varsity, joining Cross Country and learning to run a handful of miles at a time is a good decision that will contribute to valuable life skills.
Don’t worry about your resting heart rate, your VO2 max, your stride length, or any of that technical stuff for now. Just go out and do your best.