Old School Andy: Figuring out the heart of an XC runner

OPINION – When I was in high school, I dated a girl for awhile who was a cross country runner. She had this weird obsession with it, I thought. I used to call it her CCC – her cross country cult.

Often I would ask her what was so special about her CCC. She would always say, “You’d understand if you were in it.”

My sons are good friends with a couple of high school cross country runners here in southern Utah. I see that same cult-like dedication to the sport in these young men and women.

The XC runners (XC is a familiar and affectionate code name these athletes use) are as dedicated and motivated as any of the other sports stars.

Maybe you’ve seen them. If you’ve ventured out in the wee hours of the morning this summer, you may have had to swerve around them as they pounded the pavement before the full intensity of our Dixie desert sun took hold.

But the question still remains for me: Why cross country?

Now I understand the whole Endorphines thing – the runner’s high, if you will. But these kids train either very early in the morning or in the heat of the 100-degree days. They go up in the mountains and do altitude training.

They suffer through shin-splints, sprains, blisters and chafing, only to be teased by their friends for being so health-conscious.

They have no crowds to perform in front of. There are no cheerleaders or grandstands. Nobody makes signs for the cross country runners saying “Crush ’em, XC,” or “Run ’em into the ground!”

In fact, cross country runners toil in relative anonymity.

And then it struck me: They’re like offensive linemen.

I played organized full-contact football for about 10 years. Most of those years were spent as an offensive lineman.

I never got my name in the paper. I rarely got kudos from a coach. Actually, the only time the coach would even say my name is if I missed a block, and then it was part of an emotional diatribe that often included the questioning of my heritage and and the size of my heart.

I scored one touchdown in organized football, and it was in a junior varsity game. No one made me a sign. I didn’t get interviewed by the local TV station.

So why did I do it? That’s a good question.

I wanted to succeed. I wanted to make myself better. I wanted to set tough goals, then hopefully accomplish them. I wanted to please my family. I wanted to please myself. Heck, I wanted to be the best at something. Oh yeah, and it was kind of fun, too.

And so, as I struggle to understand these dedicated runners, these XC cultists, I simply need to understand myself.

They want what I wanted, what I still want. They want to accomplish something, to improve themselves and to have fun.

And so as Rachel Stone and Aimee Johnson and Byron Warby and Tommy Ingalls and all the other Region 9 XC stars hit the road this fall, I wish them the best of luck.

I may never completely understand you, but I think I understand your motivation.

Run for fun. Run for your goals. Run for your life.


Andy Griffin is a sports commentator and the opinions stated are his own and not necessarily those of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, StGeorgeUtah.com Inc., 2012, all rights reserved.

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  • Murat August 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    These people are nuts. They are ruining their health by running themselves ragged.

    • Dghws August 8, 2012 at 11:02 pm

      Every time I read one of your comments I’m amazed that you’ve made it this far in life. Freud would sure find you a study. I sure hope you avoid doing anything that might jeopardize your jaded view of the world so that you can continue to complain about everything and everyone. Rather than physical exercise you get a work out just from working up and sharing your negative energy. The only thing worse than much of the news today is reading your analysis and options of it. Maybe you should write a book…so, that you could at least have an editor tell you what he or she thinks of your opinions. Oh, XC runners out there, keep up the running. Your hard work and dedication to your sport and personal goals will prove to be a great foundation to your character that will support you through life and the many challenges that come to all. My hat goes off to all those out there logging the miles and doing the speed work.

      • Murat August 10, 2012 at 9:41 am

        I always get a chuckle when one of these hard core runners drops dead of a heart attack from over-exertion.

        • Dghws August 10, 2012 at 10:12 pm

          You are quite the empathic soul. Ran the Boston one year when one did die at the finish line. What a great tribute to his life…at the finish line after running a great race. Maybe my turn will come outside, on a road or trail, or on a mountain, but better there, after running the great race of life, than on a La-Z-boy winded after breaking wind. Again, hats off to all the young folks out there learning what it is like to work for something, finding dedication to a goal and to a team. You’ll be the one that actually earns what you get from your efforts. Keep running kids…I’ll be cheering for you along the way and proud of you at the finish line.

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