As a Junior, this is my third year running for Elsinore High School’s Cross Country team. The sport has been one of the most difficult tests of mental and physical will and strength that I have ever experienced. Cross Country is probably the sport that has the most amount of people quit. It’s definitely not for someone looking for an easy sport. I have surprised myself over the past three years with how much I have been able to push through and how much I have accomplished with running. There’s been so many days where I could see myself so close to quitting, but support from my friends and a deep mental toughness have kept me going.
The sport itself has a strange attraction. Once you’re in it, it seems almost impossible to get out, in a good way of course. Many people have come and gone over the past couple years, because the sport is no-cut, but the ones who have endured a couple months of training or a few races find themselves possessed and almost unable to leave even if they wanted to.
One weird thing that I have noticed is that basically everyone on the team says they enjoy and love cross country, but it is rare that I ever hear anyone say, “Oh my gosh I’m so excited to run ten miles today,” or anything like that. The majority of what you hear during the school day leading up to practice is the dread of not knowing what suffering we will be put through that day, not excitement. That is the strange attraction that this sport has. Everyone on the team has complained before and wanted to get out of a hard workout but there is something that makes us stay on the team and enjoy the sport.
At school, people have asked me why I like to run. That is a hard question to answer. My answer usually is that I don’t most of the time. The answer confuses a lot of people because they wonder why I would be doing a sport based on something that I don’t really like.
Cross country is so much more than just running and you really have to have experienced it firsthand to understand what it’s all about. It’s what you feel after the run that makes you like running. It’s the sense of accomplishment and, most of the time, relief that the run is over.
One of the hardest factors about cross country is that most of the time you have to rely on motivating yourself. When you’re running by yourself, on a long run or during a race, no one is there to tell you to keep going, it’s all up to you. Cross country is an individual sport, and although there are team aspects, the work that you put in has to be for you and to make yourself better.
It would be so easy to start walking during a run, because no one will be there to see you and no one will ever know, but you have to hold yourself accountable, and that is probably one of the most difficult aspects of the sport.
What I love about being on Elsinore’s team is the friendships I’ve made with my teammates. All of us are so close and support each other constantly, which makes it easier to practice and push through those tough days. The team is always doing stuff together on the weekends and we always hang out after practice.
We’ve come together in a way that I never would have imagined when I first joined the team. My friends on the team are also one of the biggest reasons that I can keep a positive outlook and put myself through those hard days.
Through everything that this sport has given me and taught me, I still cannot put my finger on exactly what it is that I like about it, but that is Cross Country’s strange attraction.
Without running, I would not know what to with myself and my life would be completely different, and may even be easier, but I will always be thankful for this amazing, yet difficult, sport for everything that I have gotten out of it.