Exploring new lengths: Cross Country

Wind and rain are never a good combination, especially in October. The dead leaves that fall from the trees are almost symbolic of how empty and cold this month makes you feel. A hidden beauty but not one you necessarily want to be exposed in for three hours.

Oct. 25 was the day I volunteered to go to leagues for cross country to do service for the Viking ladies. Siri told me the weather condition was cloudy with a chance of rain so I brought what I thought was a waterproof jacket to Fort Steilacoom Park along with my Costco rain boots that I secretly wished were Hunter brand rain boots.

Ten minutes into my half hour drive the rain started to pour, I figured it would pass but I guess this was not my lucky day. My windshield wipers were on full speed and at this point and I thought they would fly right off my car. When I arrived at the muddy park I noticed a few things specifically. One, the rain had not ceased to fall but only increased in its intensity. Two, there were many more purple tents than I planned on. Three, there were about 15 different schools from the state in attendance which was many more than I imagined.

Approximately 12 minutes after my arrival, team Captain Jordan Binford and Coach Monoghan directed me to the finish line where I would then spend the next three hours. I was handed an orange safety jacket and told to usher the runners safely across the finish line and to the end where they gave their ticket to another volunteer that determined their place.

I heard the gunshot off to my right that signaled the start of the race and I felt my body tense up as a teacher from Kalles told me it was not uncommon for runners to vomit at the finish line.

I did not take in to consideration that a 5K is a huge race which requires a great deal of endurance and strength, almost all of which has completely run out by the end of the 3.1 miles. This was no walk in the park.

There is no accurate way to describe the looks on the contestant’s faces as they crossed the finish line. I would say they had on somewhat post-apocalyptic expressions, with their heavy breathing, red faces and very sweaty bodies. Some came in with great speed, some came in looking like they could hardly take a step. It was my job to congratulate them on their great work but also to gently usher them along to the very finish so they would not lose their rank to someone who cut ahead of them in line.

I was not the only one who gasped when I saw a girl face plant in the mud the moment after she touched the black and white checkered line with her spiked running shoes. Quickly I ran to take her number tag so she could keep her time. Following quickly behind me came two other volunteers to help the student get back up so she would not be trampled by the herd of other runners coming in behind her.

The rain really increased in intensity once the boy’s junior varsity came along. I quickly found out that my $40 waterproof jacket was not actually waterproof. Luckily the team captain had a jacket to spare. Three hours in the freezing rain makes you grateful for anything, especially an oversized borrowed jacket.

The rain finally stopped in time for the award ceremony which I decided to stay for, my hair was already a bee’s nest, so how could it get worse, right? I cheered along with my friends on the team as they received awards and clapped when I heard news of new personal records. Cameras began to flash as memorable pictures were taken and this was when I really started to wish I would have taken up a sport when I got into high school. Many of my friends on the team had been running for cross country since ninth grade. They all knew each other and had run through sweat, rain and tears the past four years. Seniors began to get sentimental and I smiled knowing how big of a moment this was for them.

I think sometimes we have this persona that only the big sports in high school matter- the kind of sporting events that everyone attends where fans are expected, like football. This is such a social norm that sometimes, smaller sports that are less publicized and scattered through conversation are forgotten.

The truth is, any sport requires hard work and is time consuming. But when you find one you can excel in and spend time with people you love, you know you have hit gold. If there is anything standing in the rain for three hours taught me, that was it.