Pierre Attiogbe, '23
I’m not too tall or too strong. I don’t throw too far or jump too high. I’m at best slightly above average in terms of general athleticism. A lot of people find themselves in this category. They can toss a football during the turkey bowl and are good enough to play pickup basketball during an ensemble period, but that is the extent of their ability. In a true football game they’d end up squished like a fly and playing organized basketball they would end up on a poster. But what about on a cross country course? There, a lot of the uncontrollable physical skills so important to other sports are rendered insignificant.
As the great distance runner Eliud Kipchoge says “Athletics is not so much about the legs. It's about the heart and mind. If you believe in something and put it in your mind and heart, it can be realized.” One can only run as fast as their mind believes they can. One’s legs, in the case of cross country, are not the primary determining factor for their accomplishments, rather, it is their mindset. All runners start at their own respective fitness levels. Some are naturally faster than others, sure, but that doesn’t mean the others can’t train to catch up. A naturally quick runner who is lousy with their work ethic and loose with their goal setting has nothing on a slower runner who is dedicated to the sport and has ambitions for themselves. No runner is limited by their physical build the same way that other athletes may be in other sports. But that is also what makes it such a challenging sport. The fitness gained from steady runs and workouts aren’t going to be enough to make a runner truly successful. One’s mind has to be just as fit as their body, and in the case of athletics that is something people are used to looking over. They lift weights to make better tackles and get shots up to help with their accuracy, but how do they practice their mental devotion to a sport? With running, this is how the winners are found: Who wants it the most? At a certain level of professional long distance running, everyone knows that all their opponents are elite, world class athletes. What ends up tipping the balances one way or the other turns out to be the mind.
Cross country teaches us lessons greater than the sport itself, and that is why I have come to appreciate running so much. It teaches people the importance of their mindset, and shows that with enough hard work and a dedicated heart and mind, anything is possible.