Meditations from a Morning Practice

Photo by Dan McCauley

Meditations from a Morning Practice


Friday morning. Early. Still dark. Cross country practice on the track.

"Can you unlock the bathrooms?" "Why are the bleachers blocking Lane One?" "Can you hold my ADD medicine while I take another lap?" "If we put a fake moustache on you, will you do the Ted Lasso dance?" "Can we make one lap last for five whole minutes?" "What are we doing today?"

Kids are great - so natural, pure, fresh and feeling they'll live forever. The mattress marks are still on their faces, but that doesn't stop the questions, the wondering how they'll fit this practice thingie into their agenda that never stops, nor should it.

And there's something to be said for getting in a morning sweat even before God has lifted the sun. After all, there's a meet on Saturday - hills to be climbed, miles yet traveled - a crowded start awaits, not to mention that after-race angst while waiting on Milesplit to post the results. After all, it's not official until it's on Milesplit.

Anyway, the philosophy on this dark-thirty practice is simple: you race early, you train early. Makes sense, yes?

"How long do we have to run up this hill?" "Can somebody loan me their watch?" "Can I get some more water?" "Will we get done in time to take a shower?" "Does anyone have Dr. Evans for history?"

Have you ever quickly spanned across the radio stations in your car without stopping for long? That's what kids are, sentences lead to random thoughts that end up having nothing to do with the original idea. Random events waiting to happen, they are. Yeah, that. Exactly that.

Still, the veil of darkness is lifted - ironically as those hyperactive souls climb the last hill. You feel a tad demented as you just stand and watch, something about not making others do what you wouldn't do yourself, but still - you can't help but think the sun is shining on this youth - these angular, bony yet determined humans as they make it to the top.

Plus, there's a certain beauty in being moved out of a depression by these running souls, their chatter and their flexing their pecs and their harassing each other you hope in a good-natured way. They are energy where you once had none, their agendas so full one thought is 100-fold buried on the depth chart by the time they reach the next hallway.

The endorphins are kicking in as they stretch. Practice is over. Football Friday awaits. Weekend. Late night texting. Meeting for a lunch Saturday afternoon which turns into events that end up somewhere between awesome and ridiculous.

You hold the gym door open for them as they head in for their showers. You hold it for every last one of them. They're not built for football, there are medicines out there that could erase some of their muscles, they will enter body building contests zero times in their lives.

But they are athletes. They sweat. Suffer. Endure. Persevere. The highest rung of the cross country podium is as high as all the other sports. And almost every kid - to a boy and to a girl - offers a 'thank you' as they pass, some looking at you, some not.

You smile at this, love it even. But regardless, you must insist...

No. Thank you...

Dunn Neugebauer

Holder of lots of jobs

Author, coach, nice guy-

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