Monday, November 10, 2014


"The achievements of an organization are the results of the 
combined effort of each individual."
~ Vince Lombardi

Last month I ran my marathon PR.  It was, hands down, one of my brightest moments as a runner.  I basked in the awesomeness of it all for a few days.  And then, it was business as usual.  My 9 year old still has a boat load of homework, my 7 year old, well, I'm still trying to figure her out, and both of my kids are still ridiculously busy.  But, here's the cool thing.  I also happen to be a high school cross country coach.  Every day I get to head over to Lexington and surround myself with a gaggle of high school girls who love to run.  It is truly the ideal job for me, though, if I'm being honest, it's not always roses.  Anyone who works with kids, especially girls, ages 14-18 knows what I'm talking about.  It's a tricky age for them.  And it's a really hard age for the rest of us to figure out.  It's all good, though.  The challenge is part of the fun.  These girls are like a second family to me. Just like with family, you embrace the good and you work through the bad.  And with each little breakthrough, whether it be physical or mental or both, I am reminded how lucky I am that I get to do what I do.  On Saturday, we headed off to Wrenthem, MA to compete at the Eastern Mass Divisional Meet, one of the two biggest races of our season.  We needed to finish in the top 4 out of about 15 schools in order to keep going on to the State meet.  Our team, particularly our top 10, is ridiculously strong this year.  We all felt pretty good about making it through and sealing a spot for States.  Beyond that, anything was possible.

As we always do, we arrived a couple hours early, got ourselves situated and then we waited.  The boys team was running before us so we had more time than usual to relax or stress, depending on who you asked.  It was cold.  Really cold.  So the girls bundled up in layers and blankets and then packed themselves under the tent like sardines.  Meanwhile, a couple of the guys who had come along but were not competing decided to spice things up for us.  How, you ask?  By donning their yellow and blue nylon suits and cutting a mean rug.  No, really.

Was this odd?  Maybe a little bit.  Did we care?  Not at all.  These kids were at the meet by choice.  They were representing LHS, making an insane effort to have a good time and reminding all of us not to take things so seriously.  There were a lot of strange looks from people who walked by.  But there were also a lot of smiles and a few good chuckles.  Some even got the urge to jump in and dance with them.  It was awesome.  Finally, at about 12:45, it was time to get ready.  Each girl has her own set of rituals in terms of their race prep.  Some like more time, some less.  Some want to use the bathroom before they start, others like to wait.  Some of them like to listen to music.  Others like to be off by themselves in silence.  In an ideal world, the girls would all warm up together, but I've learned that it just can't always work this way.  So, off they went to do what they needed to do.  The nerves were in high gear, my own included.  We headed over the line and huddled up.  In so many words, I told the girls that they were 100% prepared for this moment, that they needed to trust their training, and then, when they felt ready, they needed to just let go and race with their hearts.  It's a lot to ask of these girls; to put everything aside and focus on just one thing, while knowing that this one thing is going to be unbelievably challenging.  As it turns out, every single one of them was ready and willing to step up to the plate and throw it down.  They raced like never before, as a team and for each other.  They ran as though it was the last race they would ever run, pouring everything into it.  And then, when they had given it their all, they dug a little deeper.  As a coach, it was just incredible to watch.  Running a marathon PR?  That was indeed a shining moment for me.  But, this race took it to a whole other level.  I wasn't actually the runner.  But, I was part of the equation.  And in this case, I was in it for them, not for myself which is a totally different racing experience and, in truth, almost more rewarding.  The love that flowed after the race was almost tangible.  We all quickly found each other, hugged each other, leaned on each other, cried with each other, and then, when the dust had settled, we gathered around for a final huddle.  "Coach," one of them said, "I think we might have won."  To which I replied, "Girls, I honestly don't care what place we came in.  I could not be more proud of how hard you worked out there today.  I asked you to give it your all and you gave me more.  I could see it on your faces as you ran by.  I could almost feel it.  You are all amazing.  And I can't thank you enough."

About a half hour later, we learned that we did, in fact, win our race which made us the Eastern Mass Division 1 Champions, a feat that hasn't been achieved for the LHS girls team since 2001.  All of us were, for lack of a better word, freaking out.  Our shining moment just continued to get brighter.  We packed up and headed over to the awards ceremony.  We listened and clapped as they announced the top 15 runners from each race.  And then it was our turn.  I handed my phone to one of my runners who had been at the meet cheering us on and asked them to snap a shot of us with the trophy.  And she did.  But not before taking this shot with her buds because, well, you know, she had my phone.

We work hard.  We have good days and bad days.  And we have a really, really good time.  Over the past 4 years at this job, if I've learned one thing it's this: the races, the PRs, the awards, they're all great; but the joy of just being together is truly what makes this sport so amazing.

Listen to this:
Fly With You - Far East Movement  

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