In 1978, my freshman year of HS, I joined the cross country team. The team picture from that year shows me–all 150 lbs of scrawny–with a big grin in the middle of a bunch of other scrawny dorks. To make matters worse–I sucked at cross country, and never broke the 20 minute marked (FYI…this is a truly pathetic time for cross country).
After two years of it, Junior year came, and I joined the football team, which, by the time I graduated, would complete an 0-44 (that’s 0 wins and 44 losses) reign of lame. Since the key attribute to being a running back is sprint speed, and I happen to be a fair sprinter, I did a lot better and made the starting team both years (and got the shit pounded out of me week after week) Alas! Being the starting running back on a multi-year winless team did not appear to increase my standing with girls in school, so it was pretty much all pain and no gain–except for 15 lbs of muscle which at least made me look slightly less dorky.
But every year since, when Fall comes, my mind turns to distance running as I remember those early days in High School. One of my favorite places to run is Washington’s Crossing State Park, which marks the location where George Washington crossed the Delaware River from Pennsylvania, marched South to Trenton, and routed the Hessians on 26 Dec, 1776.
I was at the park for a lunch-time walk on 9/11, and I can still recall the perfect weather and the unusually quiet sky–not an airplane to be seen or heard. Today, I went for a run there–not unusual, but recently I had been focusing on sprinting and shorter distances. I decided to take a nice, slow, long run around the perimeter trails. Frankly, I don’t remember the last time that I had ran this path–a decade if not more–so today’s run of about 5 miles may perhaps represent the farthest distance I’ve run in a decade (or more), all the more difficult because of the terrain and rather primitive condition of some trails. I don’t know about my time, but I can’t imagine it could have been much worse than freshman year, and I didn’t get gang-tackled once.