Cross country season is here. Or not.
Naturally, 2020 has landed our fair sport in a bit of upheaval, at least here in the U.S. Really, we should’ve seen it coming.
We’re still in the midst of a pandemic and a reckoning with the racial injustice that’s inherent in the present and past and also a massive wildfire season rapidly sweeping across the West Coast, accelerated by climate change. (If you deny these things, let’s chat!)
Back to sports, that bastion of escapism, that glorious distraction? Nope! Sports are political, too. (They’re about bodies.)
As some people shout “Let me/them play,” I understand the urge. I, too, am yearning for something regular-ish and hoping that kids especially get to reap the benefits of sports for physical, mental, and social health alongside life lessons and long-term prospects. But we’ve got bigger fish to fry. See: Kicking the novel coronavirus and respecting Black lives and slowing environmental degradation.
How can we adjust to meet the demands of the course on which we find ourselves collectively? Rather than wish for 2020 to disappear, or complain that the route is too challenging, what if we toed the line and gave it our 101 percent effort? Rather than shirk our responsibilities or flail theatrically, what if we ran the mile we’re in—and honestly?
The practice of cross country teaches us about ourselves, each other, and our collective potential. That is, if we are willing, mindful, and open. Sure, it feels somewhat silly to be writing about running while the world burns. But maybe it’s one way in. It’s one avenue along which we may learn to flex our muscles, stretch our lungs, and push our hearts—literally and figuratively.
The next step is to carry those lessons, the honesty buffed, the wisdom acquired, the tenacity fortified off the course and into our little corners of the world. There we must bring our best selves, including our failings and triumphs. Remember: Perfection is a fallacy; it diverts us from growth and progress.
This might sound like a pre-meet pep talk. That’s because it is. We’re at the biggest invitational of our lives.
As a coach, do I miss standing at practice? Yes. Do I know we are capable of so much more? Yes. Do I think we need to work better together? Yes. This will take each one of us, including myself, stepping up, shedding excuses, owning mistakes, and facing the conditions with conviction.
Depending on where you live, both the literal and figurative cross country season will look different than “normal.”
On a related note, here are three things I’ve been working on that might help you deal with the literal parts and/or find strength in community wherever you are:
How To Get Ready For Cross Country During COVID-19 – PodiumRunner: How to prepare for the XC season, whenever it comes.
Running Issues: Dear Freshman – DyeStat: Why high schoolers, especially freshman, should go out for XC even though it’s weird right now.
Book Club – Strong Runner Chicks: Sunday, 9/13 at 4:30pm PST. Join me and Melody Fairchild as we discuss our book Girls Running. We’re looking forward to connecting with this awesome community.