I’ll admit it freely and with pride. I’m a nerd - or whatever the current term is for someone who gets the jealousy-inducing grades they do by spending an inordinate amount of time doing homework and studying.
And I love learning. I adore fiddly little math and physics problems, and great discussions in English class, and practicing my French and Spanish. So there are quite there are a lot of things I like about school. But to be perfectly honest, I probably don’t quite qualify for nerddom, because for me, the best part of school is cross-country running in the fall.
I’ve run cross-country since my dad forced me into it in grade 4. At first, I didn’t want to get up early to go to practice, but by the end of that season I was hooked. I’ve been a runner - and a cross-country fanatic - ever since.
At my high school the cross-country (X-C) team is a lot like a big family, at least for the core of us who love it, and as we have grown from grade nines to grade twelves, have slowly started leading it.
This year, the season started right away. We had our first meeting last Friday, and it was so great to see all the familiar faces, as well as plenty of new ones. I couldn’t wait for our first practice, to get to know everyone. That practice was this afternoon, and it was amazing. My best friends and I taught the newbies the drills we do, and led the runs, and ran around introducing ourselves to everyone.
Cross-country running is one of the toughest sports out there, both mentally and physically. It’s you, on your own, against the uncaring elements. Running isn’t easy even under perfect conditions, and X-C is pretty much designed to generate poor conditions - but when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And X-C certainly teaches you to be tough.
A friend of mine (actually someone who I got to know partly through X-C) and I made posters for our team’s meeting, emphasizing toughness and grit, calling X-C the only true sport.
We also made one that said “If running were easy, they’d call it rowing.” Surprisingly, those disappeared shortly after we posted them right by the rowing team’s posters. (Our school’s rowing coach is the most feared teacher at the school. We’re not mad he took down our posters… we’re just happy he didn’t come after us.)
In making these posters, we tried to stay true to the spirit of the team that drew us in. I remember the posters that were up when I was in grade 9. They consisted of a stack of words related to cross-country: Mud. Sweat. Tears. Hills. Pain. Speed. Distance. More hills. More mud. And a picture of a runner, grimacing and muddy, going up a hill. Did this discourage us? No way, it made us rush to join.
After all, as my favourite cross-country saying goes, pain is weakness leaving the body.