What it’s like to run cross-country

Inside the mind of a crazy person.

Running+XC+is+the+most+awesome+pain+you+will+ever+feel.
Running XC is the most awesome pain you will ever feel.

Running XC is the most awesome pain you will ever feel.

Running XC is the most awesome pain you will ever feel.

Riley Fitzpatrick, Staff Writer

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I’ve been called insane. I’ve been called an idiot. I’ve been called an inspiration.

These labels would make someone think me as a psychopath. But in the end, I’ve been called these things for no other reason than the fact that I run cross country.

Most people know little about XC runners other than that they run every day after school down Bryan Lane. Before I joined the team, I would see them running past the commons as I made my way home from school. Although I would feel so bad for them, I was inspired but their love for the sport. Their dedication despite the 90 degree weather and 5+ mile runs was something I looked up to.

I wanted to see what it was all about. How could someone enjoy running for so long, so often, and in the Florida heat?   I had to find out for myself, so I joined the East Lake cross country team.

And it was the best decision I ever made,

Even though I had ran mid-distance in track the year before, it didn’t prepare me for the toll, both mentally and physically, that this sport takes on the body. There are no breaks. Practices are every single day after school plus Saturdays. The workouts include anything from twelve 200m repeats at 5K pace to a 6 mile run (most of the time longer). On varsity, the workouts got harder and harder during the season. They almost became too much to the point that I wanted to quit. At that time in the season, most normal people do.

So why didn’t I?

Running distance gives me an indescribable feeling that kept me coming back for more. Most refer to this as a runner’s high. Before cross country, I avoided long distance running at all costs and could barely keep up with mid-distance running. Now, even with the season over, I can’t go a day without running at least four miles. If I don’t, I’d feel as if I was lost and my life was crumbling apart. Even when I’m sick or only have time to run at 10PM, I do it. Cross country completely transformed running into something I not only had to do, but something I wanted to do.

I finally understood the “insanity” that cross country runners possessed. If they were crazy, then I was now a madman.

The people on the team are also some of the best people I’ve met and will ever meet in my life. Although cross country doesn’t have tryouts, it’s definitely not a walk on sport. The people who run don’t just do it because they feel like it. It’s not that simple. They do it because it’s something they love. It’s an obsession. There’s no other reason someone would voluntarily do something so challenging.

In the end, that’s what made the whole team so close.

There’s really no better bonding experience than vomiting with a teammate after a seemingly-deadly workout or race. Dying together after a hard practice was half the fun of the sport. Sharing the indescribable love for cross country brought us all even closer. It was like having a huge secret between 10 other people- we all knew of something that non-XC runners would never understand.

The only awful thing about cross was the fact that I decided to join my senior year. I would have quickly dropped cheerleading had I known how much I loved running now.

Even though I only ran for one season, the bond I formed with my teammates and the runner’s high will last a lifetime.

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