My Life in 3 Miles

Utica Cross Country


The 1st Mile:

Cross country was not even a blurb within my head before high school. I hated gym in seventh grade, I deathly feared the state required mile run, because I was not a fan of pain. Well that’s a lie. I was embarrassed of how out of shape I was, a fatty, loser, slow poke. Someone who could never keep up with the jocks. Every day I went to 1st period praying, even though I was not religious, that the mile run was not scheduled today, or it was postponed. Maybe a thunderstorm was coming, or a tornado. When I knew it was time, I dressed slowly in the locker room, tying my shoes painfully slow, my heart already pounding away because my body was in survival mode.

Alone in the mile was how I felt, I didn’t have the guts to walk it, the last thing I’d want is a scream match with my parents over an F in gym, “how hard is it to run a mile?” my dad would say, “ Just drink more water,” mom would chime in. Once the mile was over, the 9 or so minutes of distress, anxiety, exhaustion, was done and I was the happiest man alive.

“You’d be great!” the pimpled face, half shaven senior said down to me at lunch, “It just takes practice.” He was recruiting for Utica cross country, I thought he was talking to someone else.  I don’t run, but I took a pamphlet anyways. The propaganda was chalk full of pictures, guys having fun while running, laughing like someone just told a joke. It had to be fake. My friend questioned me about it the next day,

“You doing cross country?” he said, “You run like a brick,” the simile sucked but it had made his point clear.

I went to the meeting anyway.  A video played with cheesy music in the background and skinny, tan, runners, running. It was awesome, “Practice starts the first day of summer” the blond haired coach said. What did I sign up for? The first week was hell, figuratively and literally. The blazing sun, only protection the leaves in the wood behind the school, and I was nervous about my new teammates. Every day the miles became less strenuous, less scary. My teammates became my best friends, because we all endured the struggle of one of the most mentally demanding sports ever. Football players get breaks, and halftimes. Runners stop when they die, or finish.  My first season flew by, and I got better, just like that wise senior said.

The 2nd Mile:

No one likes the second mile. The first mile you have energy, the last mile you have hope. The second has despair.  My second year of cross country was legendary. Sure I wasn’t good, but I wasn’t as bad as before. Running just one mile at practice was a joke, running 3 or 4 miles was the average. The pristine and untouched river bends park is where we glided through the old deer paths, dodging season ending holes and stumps, laughing and heaving oxygen by the tankful into our lungs and legs.  We talked, or stammered about school, girls, politics and anything that got our minds off of the 2 miles we had left. I continued to improve, and solidified myself into team history as Easy E, my new nickname.

The 3rd Mile:

Race day is an art. It’s a beautiful picturesque view at nature and several 100 adolescence boys tearing through grass, following the spray-painted line to avoid being lost in the tangle of uniforms and trees. The night before and the morning of is full of water, nervous stomach, water, stretching, water, self-doubt, and more water. Toeing the line, talking shop with the team, standing shoulder to shoulder with the rivals, chanting, the multitudes of parents and coaches watching close by. Silence. Gunshot.Then Run. That’s it, cross country has changed my life, I am not afraid to run anymore, I am actually excited to run. My senior year of cross country fast approaches and it has never looked brighter for the kid who hated 7th grade gym.