A look at the Atlanta 10-day forecast
calls for 70 degrees, warm and sunny one day, while dropping to 28,
windy, and cold the next. Flash flood warnings are in effect Tuesday,
followed by snow followed by balmy temperatures.
Only one thought pops into my head as I
read this: Hmm, must be track season...
I stand now at practice, looking at
these small, un-athletic looking bodies - all angled and elbowed
and slight. It makes me smile - at this sport and who and what it
attracts. I try and picture if one were made to go out for football -
picture him hitting the sled and falling backwards. Blocking the
tackling dummy only to be tackled. Putting on the football letter
jacket that's eight sizes too large.
After all, jackets our size have to be
tailor made. I myself, just ordered a ring at girl size - the
man-size version would be the "murder weapon special," covering
all of my finger and most of my hand.
The kids chatter among themselves on
this windy day - a day I need to put rocks in a couple of pockets
to keep them from flying off into the pole vault pit. I do nothing to
stop this talking, this flirting, syllables flying at 700 words per
minute with gusts up to 1000.
Let them chatter; it's why I love
this sport so much. This running thing - what we do and coach -
is their own well-deserved ticket into athleticism, respect, letters,
banquets, adulation and the like. Runners earn this in their own way,
with suffering yet simplicity.
Most do it by running into each other,
hitting a ball harder, exerting still more pressure. These kids do it
inwardly, reaching still further and further inside. Inside -
always inside. And in the end, though we've out-muscled and
out-machoed absolutely no one, our trophy shines just as bright; the
top rung of our podium still extends equally as high.
Running shoes. Shorts. A T-shirt.
That's all that's required. On training days, boundaries aren't
even needed. We have two rules: No one runs alone. And QUIT running
in the neighbor's yards!
They will break both those rules, and
often. Still, I smile. There's a weirdness to the track & field
world that can't be duplicated. You either get it or you don't.
Most people hear a gun fire and run for cover. Track coaches start
their watches while goosebumps fill their arms.
In moving on, it's Valentine's Day
as I write this. Still, the ones before me aren't handing out candy
hearts or ordering bouquets from the nearest florist. Instead,
they're laughing about the good deals they get if they wait until
the 15th and get the chocolates for discount.
And the major questions of the day
aren't dates and love and romance and roses.
"Who's got the spike kit?" "How
are we going to put the poles in that little van?" "Are we going
to have enough to do the 4 X 400?"
For the record, it's cold and windy,
soon to be erased by sunny, followed by flash floods. Yet for me,
it's collecting bus keys, finding yellow legal pads to record
times, eagerly await that beautiful sound of guns firing across
Marietta and Roswell and Alpharetta and Rome. Watching pencil-thin
kids' faces light up when they stare at their watches. Or limp off
Yes, it is track season.
And that, in itself, makes me smile...