By: William Huffaker
My sport is your sport’s punishment. What does that even mean? What is it that makes cross-country the single most unrewarding, painful, worthless, amazing sport? Some sports are built around ego. The athletes are set to believe that they are the single most important people to ever have played. We see this in NFL, MLB, and NBA players and similarly in the students that play these sports in college and lower schools. With all the hype around these ego sports, sadly, some sports get overlooked. Athletes will train just as hard and perform just as strongly and no one will ever know, simply because they don’t play any of the major commercial sports.
This is extremely evident in one very difficult, sweaty sport known as cross-country. As a cross-country runner, I have personally seen athletes compete to the point where they can’t walk after crossing the finish line. I have seen students throw up all over themselves and still finish with record times. I’ve seen students fall unconscious after finishing, yet still stand up to race another day. All this and no one ever talks about it. No articles will be published about how Western’s cross team will beat another team or when Western runners set unbelievably fast times. No one even knows. These athletes will train their entire lives and never be rewarded. All their work will pay off when they win a race but not commercially. To most of the world, their work will have been for nothing.
Now back to the beginning, what does that title even mean? What does it mean when I say this. If one were to think of a disobedient athlete, they would usually think of a coach responding by demanding that they run laps. The more disobedient they are, the more laps they run. Now imagine the sport where the entire point is to run more, to run faster, to run longer. Imagine a sport where athletes go out and run ten miles on random country back roads in 100 degree weather. This is a sport where the point is to prove to oneself that you’re not tired or that you’re not dying of pain. It’s a sport where you punish yourself for pleasure. It’s supposed to hurt. If it’s not hurting, you’re not doing it right.
Cross-country is a sport that you have to do because you love it. If you only like it, you won’t last long. Good luck to even making it through one season. You have to want to be there with all your heart, and you expect the same from the many runners around you.
The relations between opposing cross-country teams are usually not as violent as of those in other sports. You aren’t willing to just roll over and let the other team win, but there is never hatred. All you know about your opponents is that they are giving their all to win, as are you. You race to the point where your lungs can no longer take it and you keep racing. You do this because you expect the guy or girl next to you to do the exact same thing, whether a teammate or not.
So, what does it mean when I say my sport is your sport’s punishment? I guess it means that it is not the desired sport. Nobody not in cross-country would ever want to do cross-country. In this sport, pain is an everyday thing. You hurt yourself daily only for no one to ever recognize your sacrifice. Cross-country, the few, the proud, the insane.