Cross-country is a sport that requires a very specific kind of person to be successful. To be a successful cross-country runner, you must be able to deal with very uncomfortable conditions for long periods of time. As a cross-country athlete, you have to be able to deal with the early mornings, the extreme heat, the extreme cold, and pushing yourself to the point where you physically collapse, all while learning to love pain.
My high school coach’s motto, which will always stick with me, was from Johnny Cash. The quote was “Get tough or die.” This is a perfect definition of the mindset you must have to be a successful runner.
The hardest part about running is having the motivation to get out of bed. For the last six years of my life, I have had many mornings when I was awake before the sun was up. I would run down Maumelle Boulevard, and there would be absolutely no cars on the road. Once you are out of bed, though, the rest isn’t that bad.
When you have a passion for running, you can focus on the beauty of it. I cannot count the times that I have gotten to watch the sun rise or the sun set while on a run. The thrill of finding a new trail to run or a slight breeze in the summer is a joy that not many people get to experience. The feeling of accomplishment when you complete a hard workout is like no other. The soreness in our legs and the sweat-soaked clothes we wear are reminders of hard work. The pain we feel in our legs is not a bad pain; it is a fulfilling experience of the process of getting better.
I admit, it is not easy to be a runner. Running takes a person who can fight a fight when the fight seems lost. If you do not love cross-country, you will not enjoy it.
However, if you do love the sport, then you find joy in the pain and in the odd beauties of the sport.