As the behind-the-scenes tales continue to filter down to the sports desk from the state cross country meet on Oct. 29 at MIS in Brooklyn, it sounded more like an Ironman competition than a simple cross country race. Not because of the distance, obviously, but because of the medical attention needed on the course, and at the end of the race.
Runners stumbled across the finish line in the Div. 1 race almost too ill to continue and in the girls’ race, one reportedly literally rolled across the finish line before being picked up by several race officials and medical personnel as she collapsed and simply couldn’t go on, but she made sure she finished. This was the state meet after all!
For a lot of these kids, timing is everything, and in this instance, not on the good side. Many of the kids had reported having been sick most of the week and found running to be a nearly impossible task. Several girls were overheard complaining that they thought they were going to pass out, while others, boys, too, simply threw up from the rigors of the race and couldn’t breathe.
The bug that plagued them has hit many an office over the past several weeks, including ours here at the VIEW/County Press. It’s viral, it’s long lasting, and having been fighting it myself for about 12 days now, I don’t know how they even dug deep enough to run, let alone walk. Where they got the lungpower with the chest congestion and constant hacking that goes along with this Bug-ofthe Month, I don’t know, because just getting through the workday has been a chore. Don’t even get me started about the aggravation of trying to sleep for several hours at a time.
The finish line proved to be the spotlight that brought the suffering to light, where kids complained that their legs got so shaky that they had trouble walking, let alone running. One runner fell several feet from the finish line with runners side-stepping over him. Kudos to all the kids who managed to finish, especially the ones who ran while so sick.
I know the cross country runners don’t enjoy the following that some of the other more high profile athletes do, like football, soccer and volleyball, running alone in the woods and along trails, but I often find myself taking note not so much the front runners, who make no mistake, are in these races to win them, but rather, the unsung runners.
I purposely position myself well away from the crowds to take pictures of the kids running, and have found myself getting an insider’s view from the middle-of-the-pack runners, and especially those at the back of the pack. There is no stride for these harriers, rather just an exhausted and tortured shuffle. The girls, in particular, make me smile and laugh to myself, as they come around a corner out of sight of coaches and parents, indignant with hands on hips, despising whoever made them try cross country in the first place. The lack of enjoyment is so evident in their body language, as they stop running altogether, choosing instead to walk part of the race until they come into view of the crowds again. One young lady, feeling protected and away from the fans on the other side of one course back in September, caught my eye as she was doing the slow walk and took the few milliseconds to mutter, “ I hate running.” I hear you on that one, young lady.
As some often say in our office, “the only thing that’s going to make me run is someone chasing me with a gun.” Personally, I just don’t like running; period. Give me a horse, a bike, a canoe, a set of roller blades, or any other mode of moving from Point A to Point B. My hat is off to all of them for even taking up the grueling sport. It’s just not my first choice, either.