By Matt Mauney | Associate Editor
There once was a time when I was a runner. I’d wake up early and put in a few miles, shower, and then head off to high school.
After classes were done, I’d practice again for three to five hours.
I ran track as a middle distance runner in high school for three years, before taking up cross country my senior year to rehabilitate my right knee and ankle, which I injured during the final stretch of my junior track season.
Looking back, I wish I had taken up cross country earlier in my high school career.
Now covering high school and youth sports for a living, I occasionally have the chance to go out and take in a cross country meet. They are often early in the morning and usually off the beaten path, but I always try to give the appropriate attention, respect and coverage to my former sport.
I had the opportunity to do just that last weekend at the East Hillsborough Invitational at Newsome High School.
Being out there and seeing area teams warm up, joke around and participate in pre-race chants and rituals really took me back.
Cross country is a sport that is often overlooked and eclipsed by other sports — especially football. Sure, cross country isn’t quite the spectator sport that football is, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed. I know how hard these athletes are working and the day-to-day training and struggles they face.
I remember my coach used to joke that our sport was the punishment of every other sport. Anyone that is a distance runner, whether for sport or even just recreationally knows that to be true.
I know many people say, “Live without regrets,” but I have several regarding my running career in high school.
The first would be that I didn’t take up cross country earlier. I found it much more enjoyable than track. We would always say that cross country was fun, and track was business, mainly because in track the races are shorter and usually only include five to seven other runners.
The next would be my level of dedication. I was named the captain of my team my senior year — my first on the cross country team. I took the title for granted and probably could have been a better leader and example. Individually, if I put in the work I should have, I could have had better results. Heck, I might have even run in college.
The final regret was completely out of my hands. I grew up in metro Atlanta, so finding land to train on was tough, with more shopping centers and traffic lights than trees and trails.
Our team trained by running up and down the highway, which wasn’t always an easy task during rush hour. I remember jumping on the hood of a Dodge truck (which I found ironic) to avoid being sideswiped by a driver that didn’t yield, while my team was crossing the intersection across from my school.
To all the runners out there: Keep up the hard work, stay positive and make the most of the moments while you still can.