Cross Country: A Retrospective


Daman Decker, Student Voice Editor

Cross country was the hardest sport I have ever competed in.

In sports like football, for example, when you aren’t the featured athlete on the team, or even a starter for that matter, there tends to be a lot of standing around. This is time spent pondering things like why am I playing this sport? and I wonder what’s for dinner? No time for that in cross country.

My football career came to an end last season after I realized being a 5-10, 180-pound defensive end doesn’t really bring in the college offers, and that I cannot participate in Reserve Officer Training Corp with useless shoulders and toothpick ankles. As much as I loved being a punching bag on the practice squad for guys going to schools like Boston College and Ohio State for football, I decided that the best business decision for me was to move on.

I chose cross country because you can’t get concussions running, right? I also joined because I wanted to build stamina and be with some of my friends on the team. I trained over the summer and thought I had gotten myself in pretty good condition for the season. Well, I was wrong.

First day of practice was a real baptism of fire. We started out with a casual 20-minute run, no problem. Well, 20 minutes was pretty much my limit when I came to running over the summer so I was met with the wonderful surprise that there was more running to do after. I know I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I guess I just let optimism take over and let me think that was the extent of what we were doing that day.

The next task to bear was running hills. Nothing like hill circuits on a Monday afternoon. Thirty times up the hill behind the senior parking lot. In 80 some degree weather. Safe to say, I maybe made it up 15 times. I thought it was over then, too. I was wrong again. We had a whole core workout afterwards. Very fun, very painful. And it was like this, almost everyday, for the next three months. The fact that I didn’t develop chiseled abdominals over the season makes me think I was sold a raw deal.

The training during the season was varied, and there were multiple different workout plans we followed to get us in peak running condition. Every free run felt like a choose your own adventure story. You were allowed to run anywhere you wanted, as long as you knew where you were going. Did I get lost once? Perhaps, but at least I did not run all the way to the Capitol building like two unnamed runners once did. The first hour run we did has been blocked out of my mind as some form of trauma response, and the 1000-meter repeats we did are burned into my mind.

Race days were always the highlights as one would expect. I have to admit, I did feel nervous for every single race, and the spirit of competition was very real. I think I ended up hating the St. John’s cross country runner more than their football player from back when I played. I spent most of the season consistently improving my time week to week, always striving to be faster. That was, until I sprained my ankle. Turns out you can get hurt running. Who would’ve guessed?

Despite that major setback, I was able to get healthy enough for the WCAC championship race. I was not running in the varsity event but I was still excited regardless. My first race in almost a month went as well as you could expect in that situation, not very. Despite that minor disappointment, the rest of the event was amazing. DeMatha took first place for the first time in 16 years. Looking back on the season, I realize that the most important thing I got out of this season was the relationships I built with my teammates. They are one of the things I am most grateful for.

Overall, running is hard and not something I particularly enjoyed before running cross country. I’m not saying that I like it now, but cross country was a great challenge that I think made me a better person and put me out of my comfort zone. Even though I may never do it again, my senior year would not be the same without cross country.