Part 9 of this narrative steps out of chronological order a bit to hone in on my experience with the XC team fall 2014.
The finish line always makes me emotional. It bears such significance, that chute marked by flags and cones. That clock with time ticking upwards. That spray-paint line that shouts, “YOU MADE IT!” It’s no surprise that it’s everyone’s favorite spot to be at a cross country race. (Well, that and the fact that sometimes it’s the only accessible point of the course…) A sport resplendent with parallels to life, the finish line may be the most significant of them all.
As my summer of doctor appointments drew to a close, one reality became very apparent: I would not be able to run cross country in the fall. I knew it was an inevitable reality – I knew it to be true after my MRI results – but it didn’t set in emotionally until preseason started. I would be restricted to a bystander at the finish line.
It’s funny how time changes the way you look at something. I never thought I’d be a college athlete. Then I started running XC and thought I’d be a 4-year college athlete. Then I wasn’t able to run my junior year, year 3 of the 4.
On the contrary, standing on the sidelines that season was incredibly challenging.
I wanted to be out there so badly. Long runs, sprints, even hills – give ‘em to me. I would have done it all and more, just to put my feet to the ground.
But instead I attended races with the team to support them. I picked a spot on the course, usually the 2-mile marker for the girls and the 4-mile marker for the guys. I called out times and places, tried to give constructive advice or simply say, “Mind over matter.”
I learned a lot standing out there in the woods or on the edge of a field, too. I was able to observe race dynamics in a way that I’d never been able to while one of the runners.
And I really liked seeing my teammates run with all they had. I loved it, actually. Runners are an amazing breed of individuals – I can point out to you the number of athletes I’ve witnessed rise to the challenge of the sport that most sports use as punishment.
Amidst it all, my team and my coach supported me. From asking for updates on my injury to making me laugh, their friendship became incredibly valuable. Some of them have been my running buddies since freshman year and some were freshman themselves.
To the LBC cross country team:
Thank you. Thank you for weighty discussions on how to glorify God in sport. Thanks for the van rides. For Subway after Subway trip post-race. For deep laughter. For early mornings. For discouraging races. For setting personal records. For never giving up. For functioning as a team. For the 2014 XC season. I hope to join you for year 2015.
See you at the finish line.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.