by Liam Warin '20
BEEP BEEP BEEP! My alarm blares as I struggle to get out of bed. My early morning grogginess subsides as I fumble for my iPhone hidden carefully under the bed. I regain my senses, grab my device and end the awful noise. It is 8 AM, my phone reads, meaning I have to be at school in one hour before the Saint Albans and National Cathedral School Cross Country teams journey to Kenilworth Park to compete for glory in the hot and muddy trenches. Dragging myself through the motions, I get dressed and scarf down a breakfast sandwich before getting in my car. I eventually reach the buses and fall asleep as we hit the road.
Suddenly, I jolt up and realize that half the team has left the bus, and I scramble to grab all of my belongings and exit frantically.
We set up camp just off the road. To accompany my trek, I bring a chair, a cooler filled with Dasani Water, my school materials, and extra clothes for after the tiring race. The chair immediately comes in handy, as the seat’s comfort makes me feel like a king. In the shade, I lounge and relax without a care on my mind.
That all changes one hour before my race.
My alarm strikes again, this time to indicate the upcoming event. Unfortunately, I am enjoying a delicious pizza. It’s hard to part ways with my savory lunch, but I do it for the team. I rise with several others and run our warmup loops around the small field near our base. With every step I take, I know I am one step closer to the race. Its presence in my mind haunts me throughout my stretching, and just like that, it is time to put my spikes on and go to the starting line.
My hand starts to tingle. I am ready… or so I think. The crack of the gun signals the start of the race. My fellow comrades and I sprint through the thick grass, jostling for position like soldiers running away from an explosion. Only a few minutes in, and I can already feel the heat bearing down on me. It is going to be a long race.
Throughout the race I ponder the same question: Why do I do Cross Country? Without a good answer, I continue to pace myself around the bend and up the small hill, passing supporters. What is there to cheer on in Cross Country? It’s literally just running! Angry with myself, I keep running, and running, and running. Just like that, I’m on the second loop.
Somehow, the second loop is worse than the first. I try to think of things that could distract me from thinking about my fatigue, but the only things that distract me are things about running, which puts me in even worse shape. I think of songs, pacing my breathing to music I listened to before my race. However, it is quite difficult to keep a consistent breathing pattern to the tune of “Levels” by Avicii. I’m able to set it to “Hotel California,” but that makes me think of eagles, which makes me think of NCS, which makes me think of Cross Country. Nothing works, I think to myself, but I will embrace the pain and continue.
All of the sudden, I am at the track. It’s time to give my everything, which is what I’ve been doing for the last three miles, so I slightly speed up.
I am done. I am past the finish line. It is over. So many cliches can describe this triumphant moment. Nonetheless, my race is concluded; my journey, completed; my intentions, changed. I know why I do Cross Country. I do Cross Country for the refreshing cup of water after the 5K.