For approximately eight years, I’ve been an avid spectator of our local high school’s varsity X Country team. Five of my children (three, currently) have participated in this program. As I write this article, we are one week away from the two biggest championships of the season. They will be one of my daughter‘s last X Country races because this is her senior year.
I never tire of watching this sport even though many times you only catch a glimpse of the runners at the start, perhaps in the middle and then again as they come down the home stretch. A typical course for high school varsity is 3.1 miles. Even if you happen to be a moderately to high active person, it is not easy to run 3.1 miles as fast as you can.
34 years of parenting has provided the opportunity for me to enjoy many sports. I have watched football (although after watching the movie, “Concussion,” this sport is no longer allowed in our family) baseball, volleyball and track and field, in addition to X Country. The latter is unique, however, in several ways.
X Country is a team sport but you‘re also racing yourself to try to better your time with each event. What I love most about this sport is the sportsmanship that remains so prevalent among its members, for the most part, anyway. I have witnessed opponents reaching a hand down to help an exhausted runner off the ground. I’ve also heard congratulations offered, even when the runner being congratulated has just broken a record of the runner offering the congratulations.
Without intending this observation in any derogatory way, it is also common for me to see one or two runners who are very much overweight. They are the runners I admire most. Running 3.1 miles as a lean, strong fit athlete is challenging enough, running it while 20-30 pounds overweight is even tougher. I have watched runners who do not appear to be able to one even 100 meters much less 3.1 miles finish their races and finish strong!
When that happens, those runners may be far behind the pack. In fact, many times, all other runners have already crossed the finished line and all present must wait a few solid minutes for the last runner to come in. When he or she does, not only immediate team members but opposing teams, coaches, parents and children line the finish and cheer the runner on, every last step of the way. It’s truly an amazing sight to behold.
In a world where we can’t go two steps without hearing a story about bullying or another mass shooting somewhere in the nation, in the same world where people will go to great lengths to try to bring others down, even if what they accuse them of is not true, and in a world where the media and many politicians try to spark division among us, it is refreshing and hopeful to know that there are young people who understand the true meaning of being athletes, teenagers who don’t look down on someone who may not be as fit as they are but instead, cheers that person on and tries to help him or her be the best he or she can be.
X Country is a mind-over-matter sport. It‘s about endurance, perseverance, teamwork, and willingness to give your all even when your mind is trying to trick you into thinking you have nothing left to give. There is so much more going on out there than mere running. You can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she runs a 3.1-mile race.
I was always a sprinter, so I have the utmost admiration and respect for those who can push through and kick it in to a sprint in the home stretch after climbing hills and battling for position for miles at a time. I love watching my kids run. Most of all, though, I love watching them become team players, good sports and young men and women of great character through years of practice and competition in X Country running.
Writer Bio: Judy Dudich
Judy Dudich resides in the beautiful woods of Pennsylvania, where 24 acres of land and a home-office provide the perfect setting for her children’s home-education and her own homesteading and business ventures. Life is full of blessings (and challenges!) for Judy, as a wife, mother of 10 and Grammy to six. She is a published author, whose book, “I Surrender/A Study Guide for Women” continues to encourage and support others in Christian family lifestyles throughout the world. Judy has also previously worked in the online speaking circuit. Her passion for permaculture, re-purposing, foraging and organic gardening fills her days with learning and adventure that she loves to share.