Making the Impossible Possible

This is my third season to coach Cross Country, and there is still absolutely nothing like the first meet of the season. This is the first time that even the returning runners get what I have been telling them from the very beginning:

You have to make the impossible, possible.

I tell them these words early and often to combat those two words that I hear more often than I like:

I can’t.

I remind them that not only can they run, they will run well. And yet, they don’t seem to believe me.

So I stand with them at the start line, convincing them that they will neither throw up nor die, and remind them that they can make the impossible, possible.

The start gun goes off, and off they go. And I wait at the finish line…

And here come the ones who said prior injuries would be an issue, who are way out in the front of the pack. The one who started running late, and hits the finish line passing two people at the last second. The never before runners who said they were scared they would not finish the race came flying across the line. The ones who are growing so quickly and are really starting to develop as runners, the ones who are looking for their niche, the ones who just wanted to be on a team, the returning runners who had a rough last season, all of them running to the finish. Running – not walking. And the one or two runners who you had been working with for weeks and had never completed a mile…not only did they run the entire mile, but they did it well.

All of these runners made their own impossible, possible.

This is the joy of this sport for me – showing these runners, from 6th grade to seniors, that they can run, and they can run well.

You cannot help but truly love that moment.

And you can’t help but truly love the high fives, selfies, and sweaty group hugs that come afterwards.

I’m looking forward to returning to school on Monday to watch them confidently walk into the building, the result of a lesson well-learned.

I am so blessed that they call me Coach.

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In and Out of the Valley of Death…Or Surviving the Santa Hustle

Into the Valley of Death has been the way I’ve been describing the registration for my first half marathon in three years.  So to complete the circle, or description, or whatever you want to call it, I am adding more words from Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward,

When the race officials finally let my corral go – I was in the slowpoke corral – my plan was to just keep running as much as I could.  I listened to people all around me talk about whatever strategy they were using, but it all amounted to the same thing – we had 13.1 miles to complete and we had to keep going.

All in the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

Actually, I had heard that there were at least a thousand registered for this race, so that meant there were a thousand of us crazy enough to be doing this.  What on earth were we thinking??

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why,

The course was set.  There were cookies along the way – but seriously who eats cookies in the middle of a half marathon?  Some of the course conditions were not fantastic, and who in the heck put a hill on the island?  Wait, I guess that is questioning.  Just run.

Theirs but to do and die:

Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred.

The first half of the race was pretty good, and other than a quick potty stop, my times were good.  Mile seven was not bad.  Mile eight was not terrible.  But mile nine is where runners go to die.  I really thought someone had moved the ten mile marker because mile nine was three miles long.  But mile ten finally rolled around, and I began to see the light…

Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them,

Cannon in front of them

This was more like Gulf to the right of them, people in strange costumes to the left.  I saw so much interesting stuff – some guy in a spandex Santa suit, a guy running in a kilt, some reindeer and elf costumes that could not have been very functional, and some costumes that had nothing to do with Christmas at all.  Interesting…

Then they rode back, but not

Not the six hundred.

And when the last three miles rolled around, I know I was walking more than I wanted.  Gone was the run as much as you can strategy…or at least the distance was quite a bit less.  But I rounded the last corner, and there it was – the finish line.  I pulled it together and ran.

They that had fought so well

Came thro’ the jaws of Death

Back from the mouth of Hell,

Oh.  Good.  Heavens.  The finish line was the most beautiful sight.  It meant the end, but it also meant that my hard work for FOREVER had finally paid off. I crossed the finish line.  I was not dead. I PR’d my last half marathon by and hour and a minute.  And there were also cookies – but not the ones with icing and sprinkles that I had hoped for.

When can their glory fade?

O the wild charge they made!

All the world wondered.

Honor the charge they made,

Honor the Light Brigade,

Noble six hundred.

I got a medal!!!!