I’m sure everyone has heard the story of the marathon. If you haven’t, or you’re like me and probably doodled while the teacher droned on about it, I’ll summarize the best I can:
An Ancient Greek guy (probably in sandals and a toga) ran from the city of Marathon to Athens to announce victory in battle, only to collapse and die. Besides the obvious fact that this first marathon runner was grossly under-trained – c’mon Pheidippides, you’re not supposed to drop dead when you finish a race – it also points to an occurrence when running had an important purpose. These days we’re running loops on manicured golf courses with the best equipment and training available, with live splits streamed right to each coaches’ smart phone. It begs the question, ‘Why do we run?’
Running cross country is an arbitrary endeavor to any layman who still may think that the sport is only a means of keeping up an afterschool day care for the non-athletic kids whose parents didn’t want to have to worry about watching them. And as blunt as it sounds, the layman is right. There’s no tangible reason to run 80-plus mile weeks with grueling workouts and even more grueling (to us) weight sessions for a race through the woods that no one comes out to watch besides coaches, teammates, and perhaps some exceptionally dedicated parents who happen to have vacation time saved up.
We aren’t football or basketball that bring throngs of passionate fans to the stands with wallets full of cash that wind up in the coffers of the university. And we certainly aren’t delivering news that the Greeks won a battle. But just because cross country is, at its core, an arbitrary undertaking, doesn’t mean that there’s no meaning in it. The beauty of the sport is precisely that it is somewhat meaningless and therefore becomes an empty vessel that each runner must find a reason for pursuing by attaching meaning to it. And there’s perhaps no greater time when the meaning of the sport is tested than when a runner experiences failure.
It seems to me that there are effectively two types of races in cross country; those races when the finishing line seems to move towards you just as fast as you’re bearing down on it and those races when the line moves away from you, foot by foot, tantalizing you with an end to the pain, but making you wait for it.
Friday’s race in Notre Dame was the latter of the two. The spectators’ cheers sounded more like jeers and the lightest racing shoes that Nike has to offer felt more like work boots going through sand. There were no high-fives at the end of our race, no medals hung from our necks. However, I think the same thought occurred to each of us just moments after returning to the team tent; is there any greater reward than no reward at all?
The result last Friday forced us to think to ourselves why we do this. Why wake up at 5:30 a.m.? Why fight through injuries? Why sit in FSU vans that smell like a ripe middle school locker room without a stick of deodorant in sight? All those questions could be answered by the unwavering belief and conviction that this team has in its chase to achieve success.
You want to know what this team believes in?
It’s certainly not regional rankings nor is it the result of our last race. We believe in Louisville, Kentucky on November 18th. We believe in Coach Braman. We believe in taking chances. But more than anything else, this team believes in the sum of all of its parts, that is to say, this team believes in itself. And the gears are turning and they’re shaking off their rust. Running cross country can be the most meaningful thing there is and to us, it is.
Bryce Kelley, a graduate student in Integrated Marketing Communications, is a fifth-year Seminole from Hope Valley, R.I. A two-time All-ACC Academic selection in cross country with his undergraduate degree in Creative Writing, Kelley will be providing a weekly inside look at the FSU men’s team throughout the season.