Cross Country is a Mental Sport
“I run cross country,” I say. “Oh, do you like it?” is the usual reply, insinuating the question “why would you do that to yourself?” I guess it seems much more harrowing to people who have never experienced the sport as it does to conditioned runners. Honestly, I think it’s fun and I have learned many lessons about life from running cross country and from the people who run with me. Obviously the sport is difficult, but anything can be enjoyable or awful depending on one’s attitude. For example when my body aches, I try to let every negative thought pass through my mind and focus on my destination, putting one foot in front of the other. Focusing on the pain would not make it go away; rather it would cause it to overcome me, making every step torturous. I used to complain when doing chores or difficult necessary things. Now I just try my best to accomplish what needs to be done.
It is important to acknowledge when the pain from soreness becomes pain from an injury. I have seen too many people train through an injury, irreversibly harming themselves. Often this happens when a short break from running would have healed them. The hardest part about running is deciding how hard you need to push yourself to succeed without harming yourself. It is similar to balancing the amount of time studying and the amount of sleep needed to do well on a test. When I do reach my goal time, it feels better because of the work I put into it.
People who are pure talent and little work can’t be as happy with their successes, they have nothing invested in them. Sometimes people on my team become upset with their times in a race and don’t feel like they did well. That is not what I think is important; as long as each person does what she can, I would call it a success. In a race of 200 people, 199 won’t win; but each person can do her best. In the end, winning a race is not going to make me a better person, but hopefully training for the race will. This has taught me not to try to avoid hard work, for now I know what I would be missing.
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