Chapter 11 ~ Lisa Faces A Tough Choice

Love to Run 

Chapter 11 ~ Lisa Faces a Tough Choice

Lisa’s dad was standing behind the spectator roped area. Lisa spotted her dad and jogged over to him.

Her dad bowed under the rope and hugged her, “You ran a great race. Where did you get your kick at the finish?”

Lisa shrugged her shoulders and said, “Oh, I just gave it all I got. That’s all. It’s no big deal. Thanks for coming dad. Did I hear you somewhere in the middle of the race?”

“That was me. I was at the start, then I drove ahead to the middle, and after you passed by, I drove to the finish. You had a terrible draw for the start. You might have surprised everybody and won if you had a good draw.”

“I don’t know dad. Mia, Marie, and Leah are really good. Coach said my coming in eighth clinched the victory for us. I’m happy I contributed.”

Her dad smiled at her and said, “Mom said to tell you she wanted to be here, but she couldn’t get away from work. I already called her and she said, we’re all going out for pizza to celebrate.”

Lisa smiled and said, “Thanks, dad. I gotta go.”

As soon as she got to the bus she grabbed her cell out of her backpack to text Nicole .

We won the invitational. I came in eighth. I drew one oh seven, way out on the edge. I didn’t think I’d ever catch up to the leaders. T2UL8R

It was nine o’clock in the evening when Lisa heard text ring. She grabbed her cell hoping it was Nicole.

Congrats Lisa. You’re making me proud. I already bragged about you to the coach and my teammates. I told them you and I are running in the Thanksgiving marathon. Can’t wait.

Lisa texted back.

If I qualify for states, it’s the week before the marathon. Think I can do both?

Nicole texted.

You have the stuff of a champ. We’ll run the marathon as a workout. That’s all. No pressure on either one of us. It will be fun run. It will be good to run together. CUL8R

Over the next five meets, Lisa became an important runner for the Jaguars. Each of the meets was a dual meet and she ran third for her team behind Mia Hale and Leah Landau. Mia and Leah finished one-two in all three races, Lisa finished no lower than sixth.

The cross-country season moved through September into October. The Jaguars won all the dual competition meets in their league. The cross-country season was rapidly coming to an end. The biggest meets of the year were always the last three races of the season. The league meet was the last week of October. After the league meet, all the teams ran at the regionals the first week of November. The regionals were important, because runners were selected to run in the state championship based on their times in the regional competition. The regional and state championships emphasized more individual effort than team effort. There was still a team championship, if a team had at least five runners whose time qualified to run at the state championships. The state championships followed the regionals and was the second weekend of November. Lisa was happy the season ended the Saturday before the Thanksgiving marathon.

On the Monday before the league meet, Coach Kappa asked Mia, Leah, and Lisa to meet with her in her office after practice. Coach Kappa didn’t say anything about what she wanted to discuss with the girls. They asked each other and no one could offer even a guess.

Mia, Leah, and Lisa showered and changed clothes and together went came into Coach Kappa’s office.

Mia said, “What’s up Coach?”

Coach Kappa waved her hand and wanted the girls to sit down. When the girls were seated, she said, “I got good news and bad news. The good news is I think we can repeat as state champions. No team has ever won the title five years in a row. This will be a first. We’ll make history.”

“We can do it, but what’s the bad news?” Mia asked.

Coach Kappa said. “They’ll all be gunning for us. Since they’ve had state championships in cross-country, only three other schools have four titles in a row. They all failed in their fifth attempt. We’ve got a great chance. You three will have to carry the load.
Leah said, “We can do it, Coach. Lisa’s really improved, she’s pushing Mia and me.”
Coach Kappa smiled, then said, “I’m hoping Marie and Sara, our numbers four and five can finish in the top thirty. If they do and you three finish among the top ten runners we stand a good chance at repeating as state champions.”

Lisa was silent. She knew it was not her place to speak when she was with the two co-captains.

Leah said, “Coach, what’s the bad news. It sounds pretty good to me. We just have to run our best race of the season.”

Coach Kappa nodded, she lifted her Jaguars ball cap and scratched her head, then replaced the ball cap back on her head, pulling her ponytail through the back. “Show of hands. Who’s running in the Thanksgiving marathon?”

Lisa raised her hand. Mia raised her hand. And, Leah raised her hand.

“That’s what I thought. I’m not saying don’t run in the marathon, but you can’t think about it. We got to be of one mind. Everybody on the team looks up to you three. If they think you’re not doing everything you can do to win the league, regionals, and states, they’ll let down,” Coach Kappa said.

“We won’t let up Coach. Can we do long runs on Sunday to prep for the marathon?” Mia said.

Coach Kappa shook her head, “What it means is no long runs on Saturdays or Sundays to get ready for the marathon. I want your total focus. It’s the only way we have a chance. A friend of mine from our biggest rival outside our league said she heard the Stinson coach say this is their year and they plan to knock us off. They’re undefeated in their league as well. I want a show of hands. Can I count on the three of you to give a total focus and be a great example for the team?”

“You can count on me coach,” said Mia raising her hand.

“Same here Coach,” said Leah raising her hand like Mia.

Lisa stood silently. There was no way she was going to miss running with Nicole for any reason. Her mind was on the marathon. Coach Kappa interrupted her thoughts, “Lisa, what about you?”

Lisa pushed her thoughts out of her mind and raised her hand, “Sorry coach, count on me. I’m all in.”

Mia, Leah, Lisa and Coach Kappa, placed their hands one on top of the other and on the count of three shouted, “STATES – BRING HOME THE TROPHY.”

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25 Principles to Live By by John Perry Barlow

25 Principles for Adult Behavior by John Perry Barlow Songwriter for the Grateful Dead

1. Be patient. No matter what.
2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.
3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
4. Expand your sense of the possible.
5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
6. Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
7. Tolerate ambiguity.
8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
11. Give up blood sports.
12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.
13. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
14. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
18. Admit your errors freely and soon.
19. Become less suspicious of joy.
20. Understand humility.
21. Remember that love forgives everything.
22. Foster dignity.
23. Live memorably.
24. Love yourself.
25. Endure.

Today’s Quote on Resilience by Maya Angelou

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.

Maya Angelou

Chapter 10 ~ Love to Run – Lisa Show Grit

Love to Run

Chapter 10 – Lisa Shows Grit

It wasn’t Lisa’s first race, yet it was different from any race she’d ever run. The runners were super serious. She stared at the runners on either side. They were bouncing on their feet, some were deep breathing, all had their eyes on the starter.
When the starter’s air horn sounded the entire field of runners moved as a great tidal wave swallowing the grassy field. Lisa felt an elbow dig into her right arm, she winced.

She tried to cut a diagonal toward the path, but her way was blocked by all the runners who drew lower numbers. A sense of anger seemed to grow within her. She felt it was unfair having to start with such a disadvantage. She looked toward the path, she couldn’t see the leaders, they were already out ahead and on the path that entered the wooded section of the race route.

If a drone were flying overhead and snapped a series of photos of the runners crossing the grassy field, the photos would appear as a great horde forming a funnel. Lisa now found herself entering into the narrow part of the funnel and the path into the wooded section was only twenty yards ahead. Once Lisa was on the path she quickly passed the slower runners in front of her. She had no idea what place she was in. She knew she had yet to pass any of her teammates. She didn’t feel anxious. She felt strong. She felt confident. She remembered Nicole texting her, telling her to run her best and it’ll take care of the rest. Lisa concentrated on her stride. She counted ten strides and then repeated the count. She paid no attention to who was in front of her. She became aware of people watching the race and cheering the runners on. When they came out of the wooded section, she thought she heard her dad yell, looking good Lisa, looking good. She wasn’t sure. She kept counting strides.

When Lisa saw the first hill looming fifty yards in front of her, she lengthened her stride. Halfway up the hill, she realized all the hill work she did on Mason’s Hill was paying off. As she reached the crest of the hill she sprinted down the hill to where it curved and dipped down into a tunnel that went under a main road. After she cleared the tunnel she settled back into her race pace.

Six hundred yards later, Lisa was on a straight away rising gradually toward the second second hill. It was longer and steeper than the first hill. A group of runners were already half way up the hill, Lisa knew they were the leaders. She could recognize Mia, Marie and Leah by their running form. There was only a mile left to the race after the second hill. That’s what Nicole said. A second group was fifty yards further back. Lisa was running fourth in the third group ten yards behind the second group.

In the back of her mind, she remembered something Nicole told her. “You always give it all you got. When I go to college I’m going to remember that Lisa. Give it all I’ve got all the time. We can always think of each other giving it all we got. It will connect us.”
At the time, Lisa didn’t understand what Nicole meant when she said, giving it all she had would connect them. Lisa was now running as fast as she had ever run in her life, she began to understand what Nicole meant. She sensed Nicole running beside her, encouraging her, telling her to make her proud. Lisa’s legs screamed they couldn’t go any faster. Her mind fought back and demanded her legs move faster. Lisa broke away from the third pack and was now running at the back end of the second pack of eight cross-country runners. She saw three of her teammates bunched together in this pack. Dig deeper, dig deeper. Give it all you’ve got, she shouted to herself over and over again. With ever stride she repeated her mantra.

At the top of the hill, She looked down and saw the white chalk mark gently curve to the left, cross a bridge over a stream and then turn to the road leading to the finish line. She gauged the distance between the lead pack and her at sixty yards. She was now running on the outside of the second pack, moving slowly toward the front. Moments before she crested the hill, she began to sprint.

Lisa’s arms pumped vigorously trying to pull her urge her legs on. Her chest ached, her body begged her to slow down. No, I won’t slow down, I won’t quit, she told herself. She didn’t know how much she had left. She knew her energy level was slipping away. You can dig deeper, you know you can. Dig deeper. Dig deeper. Dig Deeper. Give it all you’ve got said aloud. She stopped looking ahead toward the leaders. Instead, she kept her gaze on the trail five to ten yards in front. Occasionally, she looked up to make sure she stayed on course. She no longer paid attention to who was in front of her. She hurt too bad to think about it.

She heard people screaming. She looked up, the finish line was thirty yards ahead. Lisa could hear footsteps coming quickly behind her. She knew someone was sprinting to catch and pass her. She reached down deeper than she ever had, she raced toward the finish line and crossed the finish line a half a step ahead of the runner coming up on her. Lisa had no idea where she finished. She collapsed into Coach Kappa’s arms.
Coach Kappa said, “You ran a great race. You ran a great race.” Coach Kappa’s arm went around Lisa’s back holding her up. She walked slowly with Lisa until she was sure, Lisa was okay.

Lisa turned at looked at Coach Kappa, “How did I do Coach?”

Coach Kappa looked at her, “You did fine. You showed a lot grit, Lisa. You came in eighth. You ran third for the Jaguars. We placed three in the top ten. We have a good shot at winning because of you.

A Psalm of Life ~ Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A Psalm Of Life

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What the heart of the young man said to the psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! –
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, — act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Chapter 9, Love to Run, “The Medford Invitational”

Chapter 9, Love to Run, “The Medford Invitational”

Ten county high schools were competing in the Medford County invitational. Each year it was held at a different county high school. Coach Kappa chose the fifteen members of the high school varsity team a week earlier. Lisa placed fourth among thirty-five runners in the final practice race to determine members of the high school varsity cross-country team. The first fifteen runners to finish were automatically on the team. The next four runners were alternates. She knew she could have run a faster, but Nicole told her to only run good enough to make the team. She advised Lisa to run with the leaders, but not leave her best race on the course. Lisa wondered about Nicole’s advice, then she decided Nicole was usually right about most things. Lisa ran in a tight pack of Mia, Marie, and Leah. A half mile from the finish, Mia picked up the pace. Marie ran just off Mia’s shoulder. Leah dropped ten yards behind Mia and Marie, and Lisa stayed two strides behind Leah. Mia, Marie, and Leah sprinted the last one hundred yards to the finish. Lisa maintained her stride and finished ten seconds behind the three runners. The four upperclassmen on the team who finished in front of her came over to her and congratulated her on her run. They made her feel part of the team.

The team arrived at the Medford Invitational course an hour before the race. The race started and ended in Deer Park. Coach Kappa explained the course to the team. She told them about the two hills and where they occurred in the course. She also told them Mason’s Hill was a lot steeper and longer than these two hills. After the team meeting, Coach Kappa them stretch and loosen up. When Lisa finished stretching she ran a light half mile with Mia, Marie, and Leah.

Ten minutes before the race, Coach Kappa called the team together. She went over the team strategy. There were more than one hundred runners representing the ten high schools. The winning team would be the one with the lowest score for the first five runners. Coach Kappa told the team it didn’t matter if anyone from the Jaguars won the invitation, what mattered was having two Jaguars in the top ten and three other runners placing in ten through twenty. Coach Kappa was sure that combination would bring home the victory. She said the Jaguars won the Medford invitational four years straight and she wanted to make it five in a row. Lisa knew the first of the four victories began the year Nicole first ran as a freshman for the Jaguars. Lisa was in fifth grade at the time and she still remembered Nicole telling her how she placed second in her first Medford invitational. She won the next three Medford Invitational cross-country meets.

The race started at a large grassy field in Deer Park. The starting line stretched across the grassy field. The runners lined up on the starting line according to a number they randomly received. The number was pinned on their running jersey. Every runner was hoping for a low number because once the runners crossed the grassy field, the race route quickly narrowed into a dirt running path wide enough for only three runners. And, more importantly the lower numbers were closest to where the grassy field narrowed. The runners with the higher numbers had a fifteen yard disadvantage.

Coach Kappa was disappointed with the random drawing. Not one Jaguar was among the first twelve numbers selected. Mia, Marie, and Leah, were placed fifteen, eighteen, and twenty-two respectively. All but one of the remaining members of the team found their places between thirty and sixty. Lisa landed at number one hundred seven, nearly at the end of the starting line. Nicole always talked about how rough some of the starts could be but if you survived the first hundred yards, you had a good chance. Lisa was sure she’d survive the first hundred yards, but she might be two hundred yards behind the leaders by the time she got to the narrow path.

A voice over a loud speaker boomed, “Runners line up according to your number.”
The officials watched as the runners took their places. The starter stood with a megaphone in his hand and spoke to the runners, “I will give two commands, runners ready, and on your mark. The race will start when I signal with the air horn.” The starter blew the air horn once. Several runners started, then embarrassed walked back to the starting line.

The starter said, “The race judges will be watching closely. If they see anyone who tries to trip or knock down or purposely bump someone to gain advantage, the runner will be disqualified.”

The starter walked to the side of the starting line. He placed the megaphone to his mouth and said, Runners ready! On your mark. Lisa’s heart was racing. She’d give it her best shot. Then she heard the starter’s air horn signaling the start of the race.

Courage My Friends, Courage ~ Poem by Phan Thanh gian

Courage My Friends, Courage

by Phan Thanh gian

My friends, have faith and courage!
Their walls may be nine metres thick and twice as tall,
But your pure heart will overcome them effortlessly.

My compatriots, go forth and seek the truth.
As their arrows may descend upon you like the autumn rain,
But count on pervasive justice to shield you from harm

My dear brothers, be strong and persevere…
Their ruthless ruse may wreak momentary violent destruction
But your peace loving soul will be forever remembered

My Soul Is A Candle ~ Poem by St. John of the Cross

My Soul Is A Candle

by St. John of the Cross

My soul is a candle that burned away the veil;
only the glorious duties of light I now have.
The sufferings I knew initiated me into God.
I am a holy confessor for men.
When I see their tears running across their cheeks
and falling into
His hands,
what can I say to their great sorrow
that I too have
known.
The soul is a candle that will burn away the darkness,
only the glorious duties of love we will have.
The sufferings I knew initiated me into God.
Only His glorious cares
I now have.