The Running Community
High school is a crazy four years. Some people look back on it with fondness and others with embarrassment. High school sports are similar. For example, I am a senior at Marcus High School. The school itself was founded in 1981 and the cross country team was founded in '86. In that time, there have been hundreds of runners that have passed through the program. There are even runners on my team who are second generation Marcus runners. This school is not alone in this. Cross country runners are notoriously close with one another; other sports jokingly call it a cult. Fun runs and road races are populated by runners who continued after their school years ended. It's a sport that plants deep roots and doesn't let go.
After our coach, Coach T, passed away in May, the Marcus Cross Country program was in mourning. Out of that mourning came the most amazing thing: the alumni. Out of nowhere, an army of past runners came out of the woodwork. Throughout the 2020 season, those alumni supported us more than ever before. The night before races, our team holds a team dinner. Most dinners this season, those alumni got up and would speak on their experiences as a cross country runner. It was a powerful comfort in the face of adversity. Especially in this isolated time, our team was reminded that we're not on our own. A whole family of alumni embraced us, each with their own wisdom and takeaways from the program.
One instance in particular, an alumni dropped by my house to drop off t-shirts for an upcoming race. I was called out and I spoke with the alumni for a few minutes. We traded stories about races and the team. Surprisingly enough, many of the things he loved about the team were still true years later. I also realized that the things we both admired about the team were not inclusive to the Marcus team. Many cross country teams are tightly-knit families. We don't always get along, but we're a family nonetheless. The sport had planted its roots within both of us. We were united by a common past.
Many running programs have similar names for similar workouts. We all know to fear thousand-repeats and relax on recovery runs. We're not just related to the alumni of our school, but all runners who've come before and who will come after us. In a way, we're all part of the same team, only separated by time and distance. Cross country is seen by many as the runt of the sports. It doesn't require too much coordination and most people can run, so there's not a whole lot to learn. We know differently. We've run in the extreme cold, sweltering summers, and everything in between. If that doesn't bring us together, nothing will. Runners are all united in their sport, in our shared experiences. We are a family.
If you're reading this article, it's probably because you have at least a passing interest in running. I implore you, with the proper safety precautions in this climate, to run with others as much as possible. The most magical part of running happens not when you run alone, but when you're surrounded by strangers you'll never see again. This sport has its deep roots in all of us and there's no escape. I said earlier that high school is a crazy four years, but running is a crazy lifetime. It's something you can do for decades and I hope you all do.