A thousand miles of running.
I did some rough calculations, and that is the total mileage each member of the Knox College cross country/track team ran throughout the past academic year.
You may have seen the Knox College distance running squad plodding around campus in shorts that seemed a little too short and wondered, “Why are these people voluntarily subjecting themselves to such torture?”
Talking with athletes in other sports about their practice, I found their answer to the question “How was practice today?” usually went something like, “Good, we focused on skill set X and ran some plays, and some lines drills. It was tough.”
Our answer, quite contrastingly, often would go something like, “Good, we ran ten miles through the streets of Galesburg.” Needless to say, looks of surprise, sympathy and disgust often followed.
Having been a non-distance runner for close to 17 years, I understand why people think it is an insane sport. Before I took up cross country my senior year of high school, I scoffed at the thought of running anything above a five minute cool down which I could shuffle-jog at about the same speed I could briskly walk. That being said, I felt I might help the dedicated readers of TKS get to the bottom of the mystery of what our Knox Cross Country team does every day of the year from 4-6 p.m.
A thousand miles is a lot of miles. And Galesburg, where we do all of our runs, is not a big town. Ipso facto, we got to know the streets of Galesburg pretty well. We found out about the gated community in Galesburg (Park Lane Dr.), and also about the housing projects. We saw the llamas (yes, llamas) that are just outside the city limits of Galesburg on Seminary, and we witnessed the progression of the cornfields through three seasons.
But runs were not limited solely to observations with the great town of Galesburg. We were fortunate also to interact with the people of Galesburg on our numerous runs. Well whatever do you mean, you might ask? You were sure running was a solo sport…
“Au contraire,” say the heckles, “au contraire.” Here is a sampling of heckles we can remember from the year, in no particular order: Run, Forrest, Run! Put some meat on them bones! You nasty! Why are you running? Woooooooooooo! Who likes short shorts? Put a shirt on! Nice Ass!
Daayyyyyyummmm! Want to get in my van and come home with me? Run Faster! I bet I could beat you on my tricycle!
We’ve actually been heckled by eight year old kids saying “Run Forrest, Run!” No joke. Have you even seen Forrest Gump? It seems unlikely at that age—I mean it is a PG-13 movie. Personally, “Put some meat on them bones” was my favorite of the year. I just wished the individual who yelled this would have invited us to the barbeque they were having. On a particularly cold, snowy day in January, someone opened their window and yelled, “Why are you running?”
“Good question,” we asked ourselves. “This sucks.”
And I think this heckler brings up a valid point. Why are we running? It is certainly not for any sort of glory; distance running is right near the bottom if one were to rank the number of spectators each sport gets. And further, who wants to put themselves through two to thirty minutes (depending on what race you are running) of constant pain? In this way, competitions seem sadistic.
Personally, I wouldn’t say running is ‘fun’ exactly—it’s not that simple. Some days, it hurts to run; it is a fight to keep going. But then again, I think we can all agree there are some days we don’t really feel like doing anything, like getting out of bed or homework or going to work, but hopefully we do these things (usually). To be able to find enjoyment in an arbitrary activity like running, which requires no ball or court, has taught the Knox track team a lot about life. I speak for the distance squad when I say that a good heckle can spice up a run like nothing else. So please, if some time you see the Knox distance squad out running next year, give them a good heckle and feel free to get creative. We’d appreciate it.