It's the end of the season and this Cross Country mom is checking her tire tread - to see if there's any left. But it's been worth every millimeter.
And of course, I'm not alone. A group of dedicated Cross Country parents have put the rubber to the road along with me. A collection of some of the regular X/C moms were caught on camera at one of the meets. That isn't to say there aren't X/C dads as well- Ray Appel, Erik Fagerland, and Ed Guelfi have been sighted at X/C meets across this side of the state.
I remember in high school English class in a previous millennium when we would return to class in the fall to the dreaded, write an essay entitled "What I Did On My Summer Vacation." I feel a little like I felt then, trying to write an article about "What I Did During Cross Country Season". I hope each runner on the IIwaco X/C team is asking themselves the same question.
This year I tried very hard to learn about what this sport means. I tried to understand something about what makes a X/C runner tick. I sometimes wondered if the participants weren't borderline insane. Practices are grueling, races are stress tests in disguise. I finally decided it's just one of those things that cannot be understood standing on the outside (like being pregnant, for example), and no way was I going to attempt a 3.1 mile run let alone two hours of running repeats on hills that would challenge the most stout 4x4. Six, seven, eight or more miles a day of running just to be in shape to run a race was just going to have to stay out of my realm of comprehension.
However, that's not to say I didn't learn a lot during X/C this season. I learned what it means to be a mom of a X/C runner. I think it means you adopt a team. I watched with earnest how my son was doing, but I also got involved in how each individual was doing I cared about times, about moving up places, about injuries, about excitement and disappointment. I learned the other parents cared about the whole team too.
One evening I came home to the TV blaring and about a dozen guys sitting around my living room. My son says he's invited the X/C team over and if it's all right with me, they'd be spending the night (guys only). I asked how our juice supply was (real runners don't drink soda) and assured him it was fine. After all, they are practically family.
I think what makes X/C runners so easy to like is that as hard as they work, there's never any illusion of being a star. Not in a big way like in so many other sports. Being a X/C parent has it's own sense of pride. Maybe X/C doesn't pack the bleachers like a football or basketball game, people screaming your child's name because of some great play. The pride comes in knowing that's not going to happen, and they know it, but they work as hard as they can anyway.
One thing's for sure: no matter what their place number, no matter what their time, there will be a handful of X/C parents along with teammates and coaches cheering them through the chute. You ought to come to a meet sometimes; it'll give you goose bumps.
Saturday this week will be District Championships in Chehalis to determine the roster for the State Finals. Wouldn't it be great to see more X/C parents, friends, hometowners show up to support this hardworking group of guys and gals? They don't expect it, but you'd be amazed at what you see. And maybe learn.