Saturday, October 4, 2014, marked my shortest race since I was 18 years old—a 4km. The local 4km was in its 27th year, and was put on by Lethbridge Track & Field Club. The thing that made this race extra special was that 7 of our WCHS Cross Country athletes would be running in it too. This would be a great pre-zone race for our kids, as two of them had NEVER done a race yet in their life!
The day was gorgeous and perfect for running, We met as a team at 11:00am, which was the start of the 2km race for the younger kids. Our race packages were all nicely grouped together in a WCHS bag, which made it easy to sort and hand out bibs/shirts to my athletes. We had a few age corrections to make and that was quickly changed by Matt K. in the registration tent. The kids were either in the 15& Under or 16-18 age groups. I was in 19 & older.
Glenn, a local runner whose daughter I have taught (he was volunteering that day) kind of laughed at me running this 4km because he knew it wasn’t “my distance”. He told me to go out comfortably the first lap, and take the second lap like the last stretch of the biggest race of my life. Those words were very wise, but I did the reverse. I ran out of the starting area in a sub 6 minute pace. The up and downs over the rolling inclines were a challenge for myself, as I am used to running on asphalt, and the grass just drains your legs! Cross country is tough! By the time I reached mile 1 on my watch, I had hit 7:04. Holy shit, I wonder if I could keep that for the next 1.36 miles?
The nice thing about this course and how it looped was that I could see my athletes running as I ran. I yelled at a few of them a couple times and it kept me pushing. My chest was hurting and my throat was feeling dry. Holy crap, I am not cut out for a 4km! I kept my eye on a younger girl ahead of me, who I couldn’t tell if she was over 18 or younger, and it made it my goal to pass her before the finish. This kept me pushing and I finished in a time of 17:23. My second mile had been a 7:47, and my average pace was back to my old faithful of 7:30. Go figure!
After I finished I caught my breath and turned around to watch the kids come in. One of our boys had finished well before me, placing 2nd in his 16-18 age group with a 15:12! The other six did awesome too! Two of the girls earned ribbons in their 15& under group with a 1st and a 3rd. And another boy earned a 3rd in his 16-18 group! Our one girl who had done junior high cities on September 25, which was a 3km, ran her 4km at a faster pace per kilometer than she did at the city race! And our other two girls completed their FIRST EVER race! It was an excellent day all around.
I have fallen more and more in love with this sport. Yes, I myself am now a “long-distance runner.” But, I never got to be a high school cross country runner. Back when I was in high school, I was on the Pom Pon Team (which I would not change for a second) but this took up three sports’ seasons-Summer, Fall and Winter. One could not do two sports in a season, so cross country (fall) was out. And Cross Country was (and still is) huge back home in southern Wisconsin. I love being part of this sport and this community, and I love even more being able to get kids being excited to run. Our Cross Country South Zone Meet was yesterday, and we brought 15 athletes. 8 qualified for Provincials, which is hosted by Strathcona-Tweeds unit on October 18th. I am so excited to take these kids up there and run in the big show! And even though our regular season is done, I spoke with a bunch of the kids today after school and we are going to do a “Run Club” every Tuesday and Thursday to keep the momentum going. The kids are even asking about what local 5km races there are and which ones I do. I love where this is going and I can’t wait to see what happens.