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.

Cross Country is the parents of the varsity runners hiding a stash of glazed donuts from the freshmen and JV teams so they too have a box of heaven to devour.

6F0A2837Cross Country is where your mind goes sometimes during AP Chemistry class.

Cross Country teaches us that you can catch up to that bobbing singlet in front of you – but only if you have done the work. There is no catching up on a lost practice.

Cross Country is pools of sweat so deep on every surface of your body that your eyes scream from the salt and your shoes squish and squeak with every stride.

Cross Country is the work you do in the winter, spring and summer to prepare for how happy or sad your post-meet bus rides home will be in the fall.

6F0A7187Cross Country is about hair. Growing, showing, mowing, flowing, stowing, towing and cornrowing hair.

Cross Country is that one coach who thinks they are one of the kids who none of the kids thinks is one of the kids.

Cross Country is losing to that skinny kid with the glasses and baggy green shorts at the first freshman meet and then friending him on Facebook senior year to make sure you stay in touch after high school.

Cross Country is that plaque on the gymnasium wall with the school-record-holder’s name and 5K time etched upon it that you think about even on your most miserable training runs.

6F0A4538Cross Country is a fresh supply of potential GFs and BFs with every yellow bus that cranks open its doors at big invitational meet.

Cross Country is that bitter north headwind that would end your winter practice run before it began if not for your shivering teammates at your side trudging forward.

Cross Country is that bolt of pride stirring in your chest when you see your old high school’s name on the t-shirts of a pack of XC kids out in the neighborhood on an after-school training run.

Cross Country is a set of parents, bundled against the cold, marveling as their child runs past them with a look of determination they have never seen.

6F0A7094Cross Country is the starting box where all talk ceases and it is just you, your teammates and 3.1 miles of who has best prepared to withstand the pain that is to come.

Cross Country is nothing like you thought it would be.

Cross Country is about teaching yourself to accept denial. You deny yourself Dairy Queen. You deny yourself McDonald’s. You deny yourself late-night Netflix. All in an effort to be lighter, stronger, faster, better.

XC Is AlsoCross Country is that team huddle before the race where you pray, chant, dance and need to pee.

Cross Country is feeling like you forgot how to run one morning and the next day you somehow feel as if you can fly.

Cross Country is knowing you will never beat that one person you have never beaten. Ever. And then you do!

Cross Country is walking the halls of your high school as unknown Clark Kent on Friday and then racing at Saturday’s XC meet like Superman.

6F0A7210Cross Country is those first summer freshman practices running with strange kids from other junior highs who seem too weird to ever be someone you could like – and somehow they become someone you love.

Cross Country is running past the football team as they head from the locker room to the practice field and wondering how they can even move wearing all that stuff.

Cross Country is a sweaty embrace of a disposed yet worthy opponent as you both shed tears in the finish chute.

6F0A9719Cross Country is where you met your first crush – and unfortunately it was a vacant porta pottie.

Cross Country is a pair of new training shoes that you are sure will be the envy of all who view them from the rear.

Cross Country is painful in a way that makes you hate the training, dread the heat, abhor the hills and despise the never-ending work that awaits each dawn. But each day you rise and thrust your body back into the flames.

6F0A4664Cross Country is your daughter running herself into becoming a woman.

Cross Country is that picture you carry in your mind throughout the race of you finishing and deeply drinking every bottle of ice-cold Gatorade you can find until your brain freezes solid.

Cross Country is tricking yourself into getting out of a comfy bed by envisioning your competition already two miles into their morning run.

Cross Country is that race photo of yourself where you look like your grandmother. And you’re a dude.

6F0A4000Cross Country is learning that different, odd and goofy is not only okay, it is the preferred way to attack life.

Cross Country is that one coach who doesn’t understand you until you’re a senior.

Cross Country is learning that the only real judge of your work is your conscience.

Cross Country is pushing yourself to do what you have never done – and then doing it again next Saturday.

Greg Hall / [email protected]

About Greg Hall

Software guy who has been writing my Off The Couch column in KC newspapers, publications and websites since 1994. Has been bounced from some of the finest media establishments this side of State Line Road. Dad first and everything else second...and there are a lot of everything elses.
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6 Responses to Cross Country Is Also… (The Sequel)

  1. LibertyCat says:

    When I received a notification yesterday that you had written a sequel to your legendary Cross Country Is column, I felt like it was Christmas in August! However, I was also a little skeptical that it could not live up to last year’s piece. I was wrong. The sequel is just as good as the original!

    I am a former cross country runner, and my son is running cross country as he enters his freshman year in high school. I shared your column with him last year when he was in 8th grade and periodically texted him a verse from it to motivate him before a meet or just help develop his joy for the sport. Now I have new material to inspire him! This is a must-read for every cross country runner, either present or past.

    Excellent work!

    • Greg Hall says:

      Glad you enjoyed the sequel. I am envious of the experiences you and your son will share over the next four years. Great highs and lows are ahead for you and him. Enjoy them both equally, for a runner must learn how to cope with both to conquer his foes.

  2. MightyMo says:

    My runner is finally a senior and the intrasquad meet is Saturday. It is the beginning of his final season and my chance to watch him do something I am totally not capable of. It is every dad’s dream to watch his son be a better man than he. Go get ’em Andrew.

  3. Ashley Gilbert says:

    thank you Greg Hall. You made me cry, again. I am the booster club president, a 3rd year mom and the team motivator. I search for unique ways to inspire them. You never fail me.

  4. Kendall says:

    I have read both of your Cross Country is pieces. Each time I read them I almost cry. I have both of them bookmarked on my computer so I can read them at anytime. Every time I read these it reminds me how amazing this sport truly is. If I am ever doubting why I keep pushing so hard and am in pain, I go back and read these. Both of your Cross Country is pieces are a must read. My coach read your original one to the team last year at state…it was the best thing I have ever heard. It embodies what cross country is; and reminds me of why i love this sport.

    • Greg Hall says:

      I really appreciate you letting me know how much you enjoyed my two Cross Country Is… verses. Hope you and your team have a great state series and are back at state again this fall.
      BTW, please tell your coach he has excellent taste it literature!

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