I sign the form of liability.
“I have read and agree to the above statements…”
I am a collegiate runner.
I step into my new running shoes in the awkward stage of being perfectly broken in but still giving me blisters as I shake thinking about the running I am about to endure. I nervously step onto the bus.
I am a silly freshman, new and naïve - Fresh and fragile.
Cross country camp was only four days long, but the days consisted of an intense change of lifestyle. Four days of running, sleeping, eating, running, eating, sleeping, running, sleeping, eating, running, eating, sleeping, running, sleeping and of course, eating.
The first day on the schedule consisted of an “easy” run. I wasn’t fooled though. The easy run meant that I would be preparing myself for an extremely difficult task because considering my lack of talent and self-discipline; the 40-minute trot would feel more like a struggle than any simple and enjoyable activity.
As if running close to an hour every day, twice a day, wasn’t difficult enough to wear me out, let me tell you about these cross country runners, or I guess I could use the term “maniac runners” as the titles are synonymous. These runners aren’t just any generic breed of athletes but they are Oregonian runners and as I have somewhat mentioned in other columns, these runners are one of a kind.
These runners adore hiking and swimming as other leisure activities. The tempo runs and hour long runs aren’t enough. They rely on their legs not only to carry them physically for the first half but then be obedient enough to drag along for the second and the other activities that being a Northwestern athlete entails.
The background information about me is simple: I was a sprinter until I became a mid-distance runner senior year in high school (such old, immature days) but now I somehow found myself awkwardly at cross country practice as if I know anything about running. Seriously, I don’t know how I got here. It must be a mistake. After all, name is quite common…
Now, I recognize that maybe I’m being dramatic. Maybe, just maybe, the heat, and the prices of textbooks or the extremely inconsistent sleeping patterns are playing a part in my panic but I think it’s not too far-fetched to say that these runners that I am alongside with (this is just the saying, I’m actually never next to them but instead behind them) are amazing, talented, skilled and dedicated but they must be also absolutely insane.
They have to be lacking in rationality.
Who besides a crazy person would get excited about doing something so mundane? It’s not really a physical sport, isn’t as entertaining for spectators but somehow it’s still thought of as fun?
These runners must be insane and I guess I just can’t determine how much my sanity is worth. Is it worth abandoning that little voice inside that yells at me to stop when I’m hurting or when I’m tired to feel the reward of achieving goals and beating competitors?
Runners, especially college-aged, cross country runners have a skill of running without thinking too much but maintaining the perfect ability to responsibly and intelligently compete in the sport that nobody else would dare try - the activity that other sports participate in for punishment.
The new days of college, the beginning of cross country season have brought on more changes and transitions that I was prepared for but they have been the most rewarding and entertaining moments as well:
Gatorade - only the red kind.
“One more lap”.
Drinking enough water to be hydrated.
Not allowing thirst to let you overdrink water.
Finding out the hard way what that difference is.
The stress of setting up the awesome watch.
The difference in running shoes.
Putting a Dri-fit t-shirt in the shower to see how it’ll work.
Acting like it was a joke when you were actually curious.
The sacrifice of a college student to buy new shoes.
Using the majority of the water to wash out cotton mouth.
The awkward moment when a professor sees you gargling your water and throwing up on the side of the main campus road after practice.
Taking ice baths. Just sink to your chest until you become numb. Whatever you do, don’t think.
Taking heat baths.
Having your roommate use the rolling pin you found downstairs in the lobby’s kitchen to roll out your calf.
The awkward moment when adults see you bringing the rolling pin out of your dorm room.
Not Justin Bieber or Twilight posters but Steve Prefontaine pasted on the dorm walls as the “perfect decoration.”
Ankle strengthening workouts. I didn’t need that when I was a sprinter but now those exercises take up almost as much time as the running aspect.
Push up planks while high fiving your partner. These are my least favorite so naturally, they happen to be done every day.
The main realization at the beginning of college has been that cross country athletes really are maniac runners. I constantly find myself still breathing after practice, but seriously, just barely.
This semester, this season will be an adventure to say the least. Like I told my roommate when I watched her try to fit all her stuff on her side of the room but had almost too much stuff while I had only two trash bags full: “This’ll be very interesting.”