"No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it."
~ Halford E. Luccock
As many of you know, I coach girls cross country over at Lexington High School. This is my 5th year with the team and I more excited than ever, which I admittedly say every year. Our fall season began a few weeks ago, in late August. I have 60 girls on the squad of various ages, grades and levels of ability. Every day is an adventure, to say the least. I suppose that's one of the main reasons I love my job as much as I do. This past Saturday we had our first meet out in Newburyport, MA at the beautiful Maudslay State Park. This particular meet, the Clipper Relays, is a bit atypical because rather than one huge race with everyone, the girls compete in teams of three as a relay. So, rather than having all the runners toe the line together to run the traditional 3.1 mile loop, each school has several small teams and each runner does a 2 mile loop for a total of 6 miles per team. It's an awesome meet to start off the seasons for several reasons. First, and foremost, it builds team unity, which, in the beginning of the season, is critical. Cross country is so often perceived as an individual sport and while there is definitely a solo element to it, in the end, it is the team that these girls are ultimately running for. They get a real sense of this concept at this meet. Second, a relay seems a bit less daunting than a solo race, particularly for a freshmen who has never run a high school XC race before. And last, because when the meet is over, the entire team, both boys and girls (about 120 kids) get to head over to the nearby pond for a post-race swim, which is as fun if not more so than the race itself. It's been ridiculously hot and humid in the Boston area over the past few weeks, so we were beyond lucky to wake up to a crisp and cool morning on Saturday. We headed off around 7:00am and arrived in Newburyport about and hour later. The girls race was set to take off at 9:15, so we didn't have a lot of time to dilly dally, which was good, because too much time often works against a squad of our size. After a quick bathroom break, we headed off to run the course. The day was heating up but the 2 mile loop was mostly through the woods and thus heavily shaded so we weren't going to have much to battle in regards to weather. The girls spent some time doing their dynamics and getting in the zone before we all headed over to the start.
Music? Check. Spikes? Check.
Being a runner myself, the warmup and pre-race prep is a process that I both know and appreciate. I love to watch the girls do whatever it takes to get them ready or calm their nerves. A few will do some extra stretching on their own. Others will zone out and listen to music. And some will gather with a friend or two and provide some words of encouragement or a few laughs if needed. Though I am 40 and these girls are teenagers, our desire to run hard and race well is ultimately the same. That brings me closer to them in a way that they might not even realize. I love that. Just before we headed over to the start, I grabbed my assistant coach, Lance, for a quick photo. Lance is over 6 feet tall and I am not, so this was a bit tricky, but we made it work. Thankfully, he has really long arms.
Pre-race w/ Lance
At this point the excitement was building and the energy throughout the group almost tangible. We made our way to the line to do some strides and our team cheer. In our huddle, I reminded them, as always do, of the following:
~ You are totally ready for this.
~ All I ask is that you give it your best.
~ And don't forget to have fun.
The last being the most important as it's truly what running should be about for them. I watched as each girl passed the baton off to her teammate, watched them cheer for each other, watched them high five and hug each other when they finished their legs. It was one of those magical experiences where everything was happening so fast and clicking beautifully. By now, it was at least 80 degrees out yet I had chills throughout the entire race. Being a part of this event reminded me, yet again, why I coach. Running can do so much for us in so many ways. I saw that in spades on Saturday. Through running, these girls are fitter, stronger, happier, more confident, more proud, even more humble, all at once. They will become such amazing women and their high school running experience will have so much to do with that. And that is just so damn cool. Here's to another amazing season for all of us. GO LEX!
Post-race. All smiles.
(w/ 2 random guys in the background)
Listen to this:
As Time Goes - Jr. Jr. or listen w/