Cross Country Is… 2019 Edition

Cross country is your principal receiving a phone call from a concerned citizen who is distraught over seeing the boys run topless through the neighborhood.

Cross country is that one girl who trains with the boy’s team because she can.

Cross country is fretting all week about how you want your hair braided but dumping two cups of water over your head immediately following your race.

Cross country is discovering your rhythm matches far more people than you could have imagined.

Cross country is what you have done that will determine what you do.

Cross country is misunderstood by just about everyone who has never had the privilege of knowing the sport.

Cross country is the simplest of contests, pairing our seven kids’ hearts versus yours.

Cross country is a box of donuts on the passenger seat of your car providing fuel for your unquenchable fire.

Cross country is that chronic ache in your back that extends down into your glutes and culminates in a cramp in your calves and toes.

Cross country is walking into your first day at your new job and knowing nobody here is going to outwork you.

Cross country is the same pair of nylon running shorts washed hundreds of times that refuse to give in and quit.

Cross country is your dog not understanding that this is not a game, but rather race day.

Cross country is frozen fingers unable to manipulate the intricate workings of a maddening safety pin not once but four times on a blustery Saturday morning.

Cross country is a brand-new pair of spikes that manically temp you like a shortcut to wear them in this morning’s race.

Cross country is a team tent that smells of teenagers, lineament, sweat and fear.

Cross country is a world-wide sorority and fraternity that each of us who have ever toed the start box belongs to for life.

Cross country is learning that splits have nothing to do with bananas or gymnastics.

Cross country is my t-shirt from Colorado that I puked on while running down the mountain.

Cross country is the hardest 20-minute test you will take in high school.

Cross country is where confidence grows in those who dare to embrace the pain and defeat it.

Cross country is an old man bent like a question mark, standing near the finish chute remembering the agony, desperation, exhilaration, hopelessness and adrenaline all pumping through his veins when he too made that final surge to the tape so many decades ago.

Cross country is one hundred different races taking place within one race.  

Cross country is all about that one last race in November…and answering the question — will you be racing or watching?

Greg Hall @greghall24 [email protected]

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Why The Blue Springs School District Needs An Enema

To say I was flabbergasted after reading the interview on with Mark Bubalo, Blue Springs School District Activities Director, regarding the district’s decision to deny Tori Findley and Victor Mugeche the opportunity to run at the prestigious Arcadia meet in California would be an understatement. Enraged, stupefied and sad would be additional emotions I experienced while reading Bubalo’s responses to Cory Mull’s excellent interview.

Bubalo is simply acting as the spokesperson for the Blue Springs School District but his words reflect on that body’s competence. Please read below for my comments to Bubalo’s explanations in my Off The Couch format.

“It’s just a school district policy. We don’t generally send teams out of state to compete in California. And in this case, it would be individuals. So, it’s just a district policy we are following.”
Mark Bubalo, Blue Springs School District activities director
GH: “It’s just policy” is a lame excuse whether you are a parent repeating it to your kids, a teacher or school administrator dodging a student’s questions or a boss attempting to justify a decision at work. Who makes the policy, Mark? You and the district administrators. Hiding behind this excuse simply inflames those demanding answers.

It isn’t just about cost. It’s about missing class time.
Mark Bubalo
, Blue Springs School District activities director
GH: Missing class time. Oh, how I wish this were more of a concern of school districts. With all of the built-in off days for in-service, spring break and holiday break, it is a wonder high school students master any subjects. To lean on this excuse for two seniors with high GPAs and excellent attendance in the final four weeks of their high school career is laughable – but far from funny. Continue reading

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The Art of Shoveling Snow

The foot of snow that fell overnight covered the two concrete strips that made up our “driveway.” American homebuilders were a more frugal lot back in the late 1920s when my childhood home in South Omaha was built.

Instead of pouring a complete concrete driveway to connect our one-car garage in the backyard to the street’s curb, two 14-inch wide concrete paths, just wide enough for an automobile’s tires, were laid parallel the width of a car’s axles.

I struggled with my grown-man-sized metal shovel and heavy wooden handle as I attempted to clear the strip to the north of the day-old snow first. The weight of each scoopful had my seven-year-old-self teetering forward and back before I tried unsuccessfully to pitch it over the strip to the south and atop the snow-covered lawn. Continue reading

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My First Boston Marathon In 2011 Was Fraught With Rookie Mistakes

I originally published this story in April 2011 after my first of four Boston Marathons. I had lost track of this story and just recently ran across it as I was cleaning out my computer’s hard drive in preparation for a new desktop. I hope this tale wears better than my bod did rolling over those hills in Boston…

The cannonballs that have taken up residence where my thighs once resided still roll and stab with each forward step. Curbs look like waist-high cement walls to my post-marathon bod. It is in this state of repair that I pen this tale of my trip from Hopkinton to Boston for the running of the 115th Boston Marathon.

As marathons go, I am pretty much a noobie. At least that’s what my son calls rookie Xbox players who get trampled by his “supreme awesomeness.”  As I approached the age of 55 the summer of 2009, I decided it was now or never to run 26.2. I picked the Tucson Marathon in December because it was downhill and well, it was Tucson in December. Think of the scenery. And even the mountains.

I needed a time goal and since a 55-year-old male needed to run 3:45 to BQ (Boston Qualify), that was what I decided I’d run. I ran 3:45 at Tucson and figured my marathon days were done. But qualifying for the Boston Marathon is kind of a revered goal for many distance runners who never make it to Hopkinton. My friends reminded me of this often enough to make me change my mind and put Boston on my Bucket List.

Continue reading

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Cross Country Is Also… (The Sequel)

My Cross Country Is… verse from 2015 was well received so why not follow it up with a sequel? May your summer training be cool, wet and weirdly wonderful.


6F0A3825Cross Country is difficult to explain to your non-running friends. So difficult you have given up trying and answer their quizzical looks with a mischievous grin.

Cross Country is that deep intellectual conversation you and your teammates have with your coach about farting while on an early-morning training run.

Cross Country is a life-long sport that teaches discipline, self-sacrifice and team goals that you will rely on many years after your last race is run.

Cross Country is the post-race treats table lovingly prepared by your parents that silently awaits the ravaging attack of zombie runners brought back to life by bagels, Fruit Loops, bananas and those quickly disappearing glazed donuts. Continue reading

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Be An October Rose

October Rose JPG

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Cross Country Is…

IMG_2124I wrote my Baseball Is… verse in 1994 as the MLB players went on strike and I feared my son would grow up wondering what this wonderful sport was all about.

My Cross Country Is… verse comes from my experiences with the sport since the 1970s and continues today as I photograph many of the high school meets in the Kansas City area and beyond. I hope you enjoy it.

Cross Country Is…

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