Well, it turns out that Riley wasn't bluffing--he went ahead and joined his middle school's Cross-Country Club. (Luckily it's muuuuch less expensive...or exclusive...than the pool/golf/tennis type of country club!) Now, everyone in the family actually runs....just not in any kind of what one might call a..."formal way". You see, we each have our own style--Husband and Derek prefer to lope along on forest paths, while for me, it's gotta be asphalt all the way, as tree roots and uneven terrain and hidden rocks would surely make up a recipe for "one sprained ankle" just begging to happen. And of course we run at very different speeds, with per-mile times varying from 7-8 minutes (yeah, the whippersnappers) to somewhere slightly over that (Husband) to about 9-1/2. (Right, that's me...and I'll stick to slow and steady, thank you very much...the only exception being MAYBE if something large and hungry is chasing me...and even then, I'd try to exercise the "hide" maneuver before the "sprint" option if at all possible...just sayin'...) Then there are those...intangible preferences--you know, like whether to wear those trendy compression socks or not ("yes" for the old folks, "heck no" for the youth) and whether you enjoy conversing whilst chugging along ("absolutely not, as I'm quite busy enough right now with coordinating the breathing and pumping the legs and whatnot" for me...."eh, sure, why not" for the Male Posse).
So I wondered what it would be like for him on an actual team of runners, who train together every day with a coach who guides their workouts to prepare them for meets. What I've gotten from Riley so far is that it's enjoyable (he has several friends on the team, which might have influenced his decision to give this a try) as well as exhausting. They do long runs, short runs, graduated speed intervals, sprints, strengthening, stretching...and maybe some other fancy professional-runner-type-stuff, for all I know. All I can be totally certain about is that we pick up an extremely sweaty, tired boy at 4:45 every day, and bring him home to shower, eat dinner, attack his homework....and shuffle around the house like it's almost too much effort to get to his room and collapse on the bed at the end of his day.
Then yesterday, they finally got to have a real meet for the first time this season (an "away" contest having unfortunately been cancelled due to thunderstorms last week). I planned to attend, although I wasn't sure what to expect at all when I showed up at the park they use for their course, which is pretty much across the street from the school. What I initially noticed was the surprisingly large crowd...of spectators. Granted, this was a match between 2 local rival schools, but still--lots and lots of parents (and a few siblings) turned out to watch the proceedings.
Next, I realized that the teams themselves had quite a few runners--there were just over 100 kids, all together. While some of them were verrrry TALL (I'm guessing most likely 8th graders), there were a few tiny competitors in the mix as well. (And please don't get me wrong, I'm not making fun of them--on the contrary, I'm positive that they're ALL still faster than me, regardless of their size!) It appeared that the route circled the baseball field in front of us, then went off into the woods for a spell, before returning to lap the diamond once more--so we'd basically see the start and finish of the race from where we stood. Okay, then...good enough for me...sooooo...I'll just hang out here and...wait for the kids to magically emerge from the trees...right, and clap enthusiastically for the red jerseys...and maybe yell some encouraging words. "Um...keep it up! Nice....running! You've got this!" Or something along those lines...
The girls did their heat first, and while I have no earthly idea how the scoring works for one of these things, I can tell you that the first 2 finishers (FAR out in front) were from the guest school, and the next oh, 10 or so were from Riley's squad. Apparently, that bodes well for the final tally--where they calculate times and order of completion and....grade point average? (Planetary rotational factor? Seriously, your guess is as good as mine...) Then the boys got out there to do their thing, and I was able to at least see Riley off on his journey....then twiddle my thumbs for a bit...then catch sight of him again as he crested the final rise for a bold dash to the endline. Once they recorded his time, he seemed pretty psyched, since he'd come in faster than the personal goal he'd set for his first attempt.
We got an email the next day with scores (which I STILL don't even remotely understand, so I'll be more than happy to take their word for it) and Riley's estimated time for the 1.86 mile course was 14 minute, 16 seconds, coming in 27th out of 79 boys. But even better was a nice little shout-out from the coach about several newbies--Riley included--who had bested their own 1-mile times from when they were measured 2 weeks ago. Well, then...I suppose he's found yet another reason to run around in the grass (and, um, "dirt paths"), besides soccer! No rest for the weary, however, as his next meet is TOMORROW...and this time, I'll be a total veteran on the sidelines....I'll have my "real camera" since I'll know where and when the best photographic opportunities are likely to occur...and I'll have a better repertoire of pep-talk lines prepared..."Push it! Move those feet! You'll never make it to the snacks at this rate!" (Um...yeah, I'll go work on it...)