Love to Run
Chapter 13 ~ Focus, Focus, Focus
The state cross-country championship was open competition. Runners from every high school in the state could compete. There was no division based on the size of the school. Runners first competed in the regional cross-country races to qualify to run in the state-wide championship. Nickerson High School, the Jaguars, was located in the South Regional District. Most of the teams that won the state cross country championships came from either the southern or western regional sections.
Monday, after the league championship the Jaguar runners entered the locker room at the end of the school day and were greeted by a bulletin board filled with newspaper clippings showing the times and names of the Jaguars’ biggest threat. Every newspaper clipping posted by Coach Kappa was about the Stinson High School runners. Their co-captains told a reporter this was the year they were going to win and defeat Nickerson High School.”
Coach Kappa gathered the team together in the locker room. She said, “There are new guidelines for qualifying for the state championship this year. Each of the regional districts is having a record number of runners competing. Because of the high number of entrants in each of the regionals, the state committee is only selecting runners meeting the minimum time they set to qualify to run at states. The more runners who meet the qualifying time, the better our chances to repeat and with our fifth championship. We need at least five to have a chance to repeat as state champions, I want all fifteen of you to qualify. I’m asking a question. I want you to shout out the answer. What are we going to do this week and next?”
The team in one voice hollered, “Work hard. Focus, focus, and focus.”
Coach Kappa said, “I hear you, but I don’t feel it. It’s not loud enough. It’s not coming from your heart. What are we going to do?”
Mia, Marie, Leah, and Lisa stood up, the rest of the team followed their example. Together, the entire team shouted loud enough to get a dog barking across the street from the school gymnasium, “Work hard, focus, focus, and focus!”
Coach Kappa said, “That’s the spirit. Let’s stay focused. Today we’re working on speed drills, tomorrow’s distance. Speed drills the next day, on Thursday, we’ll do five mile run on a hilly course, then Friday is our rest day. No parties. No late nights. I posted a list of the foods to eat that will give you the energy and stamina you need for the races.”
The Jaguars followed worked hard. They focused, focused, and focused. Lisa looked forward to Friday before regionals. It was a day of rest and recovery, that’s what Coach Kappa called it. It was also a teacher workshop day.
Friday morning, Lisa’s mom and dad let her sleep in. When she woke, She showered and dressed and went into the kitchen. Lisa walked to the refrigerator and saw notes her dad and mom posted to her on the refrigerator door.
Her dad’s note read:
Remember to take it easy. Catch up on your school work. Stay away from thinking or going online to check on the regionals. Do some fun things. See you at dinner. Love, Dad
Lisa was happy she had no tests next week. She’d get her homework out of the way so she could enjoy Sunday, then she’d play video games. She hadn’t done that for a while.
She read her mom’s note:
Hot oatmeal is in the small crockpot. Raisins and nuts in the top left shelf next to the energy bars you like. The top shelf has all the foods Coach Kappa put on the list. Even Dad’s not allowed to touch the shelf. See you around five. Love, Mom
Lisa loved her mom and dad. She knew they loved her. They treated her no different than Nicole. She knew she was one of the lucky ones, especially when she listened to some of the kids at school complain about their parents.
She took her time eating her breakfast. While she ate she had her iPad next to her. Her dad’s note said to not go online and check out the regionals. It didn’t say anything about the Thanksgiving Turkey Day Marathon. She decided she could tell her dad the truth and say she didn’t go online to read about the regionals. She felt better and then typed in http://www.thanksgivingdayturkeymarathon26.2.com.
She quickly connected to the website. She scrolled through photos of last year’s race. She scanned through the times of women finishers. Her eye caught a link on the right hand side of the page that read: Age categories. She clicked on the link. She eyeballed the youngest category for awards, ages 12 to 16. She made up her mind she was going to win it. She organized her training for the marathon in her mind. She’d keep her word to Coach Kappa and the team. But, on the day after the state championships, she was going to train hard for three days in preparation for the marathon. She was going to make Nicole proud.
The Three Oddest Words
by Wislawa Szymborska
When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.
When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.
When I pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no non-being can hold.
Love to Run
Chapter 12 ~ Coach Kappa Challenges Lisa To Do Better
Claymont High School hosted the league championship on it’s home course. It was their turn in the rotation of where the championship would be held. It would be a decade before they could host it again. It would rotate among all the high schools in the league.
The course location didn’t matter to the Jaguar runners. They placed one, two, three, seven and ten easily winning the league title for the fifth consecutive year. Lisa placed third, only seven seconds behind Mia and two strides behind Marie. The three of them separated themselves from the pack of runners in the final half-mile and ran away with the first three places. The entire team was in a celebration mood. They boarded the bus, Lisa was anxious to text Nicole and tell her about the race.
When she boarded the bus, Coach Kappa who was sitting in the front seat behind the driver, patted the seat next to her and said, “Lisa, sit here.”
Lisa tightened her grip on her cell phone and slid into the seat next to Coach Kappa. She had no clue what Coach Kappa wanted. Coach Kappa usually sat alone on the bus trips.
The bus driver asked everyone to fasten their seat belts. She got up from her driver’s seat and walked down the aisle making sure all the girls were buckled. When she returned, she closed the bus door, started the engine and began the trip back to Nickerson High School, home of the Jaguars.
Coach Kappa said to Lisa, “You ran a great race, today.”
“Thanks, Coach,” said Lisa not sure where Coach Kappa was heading.
“Tell me about the race, you know, your part in the race,” said Coach Kappa.
“What do you want to know, Coach? Mia, Marie and me ran away from the rest of the field. There’s not much else to tell,” said Lisa.
“I think there’s a lot more to tell, give it a try,” said Coach Kappa.
“Okay, Coach. I got a pretty good draw, number twenty-five. When the race started I sprinted across the open field toward the trail. I was tenth when we got to the trail. I saw Mia, Marie and Leah in front of me. I don’t know if they were in the lead or not, I was concentrating on my form.”
“Good, keep going,” said Coach.
“I got boxed in by three runners from Red Willow. It almost seemed as if they were doing it on purpose. There were two in front of me and two on my left, the running side of the trail. I couldn’t step off the trail on the right because I would have been disqualified.”
“I understand. What did you do?” asked Coach Kappa.
“At first, I was hoping they’d separate a little and I could squeeze through an opening, but they didn’t. I didn’t want the leaders to get too far ahead of me, so I dropped back.”
“You dropped back? Why did you do that? It cost you some time,” said Coach Kappa not really as a question, but more to make Lisa think about why she dropped back.
“I know it cost me time, Coach. The way I figured it, they wouldn’t notice me dropping back. When I was three strides behind them, one of the runners looked over her shoulder at me and saw me content to be running behind them, I thought I saw her smile. That’s when I turned the jets on and sprinted on their left and passed them before they realized what I was doing.”
“Did Nicole teach you that strategy? It’s a good way to get out of being blocked in,” said Coach Kappa.
“No, Coach. I figured it out all by myself,” said Lisa with a bit of pride. Then she continued, “At the mile marker, I was forty yards behind the lead pack. I didn’t panic, I concentrated on my form and kept repeating my motivation saying as I ran.”
Coach Kappa interrupted Lisa, “What is your mantra that you kept repeating?”
“It’s just something Nicole and I share, that’s all, Coach.”
Coach Kappa turned a bit toward Lisa and said, “You don’t have to tell me. Whatever it is, keep using it. Now tell me about how you caught up to the lead pack of runners.”
Lisa was picturing the race in her mind, she said, “Around the two-mile mark I pulled within twenty yards of the lead pack. I was comfortable there. I settled in coming up slowly on them. I didn’t want to let it all out. There was still a bit more than a mile left to the race. I had plenty of time. It’s an easy course with only one hill at the 2.75 mile marker. That’s where I planned to make my move. I did, when I hit the base of the hill, I poured it on. I caught Leah on the hill and by the time I got to the top of the hill I was running third behind Mia and Marie. Mia picked up the pace going down the hill and got a bit of separation from Marie and me, but not too much.”
“Why didn’t you go after, Mia?” asked Coach Kappa.
Lisa shrugged, “I don’t know. I just didn’t.”
“Are you saving yourself for the marathon?” asked Coach Kappa.
Lisa knew she held back and now she knew, Coach Kappa knew. She didn’t know what to say, so she didn’t say anything.
Coach Kappa turned to Lisa and spoke softly, “You and Mia are the best runners on the team. I believe you are her equal or better. Your thinking is misguided. What do you think Nicole would have done in your situation? I want you to answer me.”
Lisa didn’t look at Coach Kappa. Coach Kappa said, “Lisa?”
“She would have gone after Mia. She wouldn’t have held back.”
“So, you didn’t give it all you’ve got. I think I heard you tell me that before,” said Coach Kappa.
Lisa wondered if Coach Kappa knew that was her mantra. She said, “Sorry, Coach. I promise it won’t happen again.”
“I believe you, Lisa. I want you to run the marathon with Nicole. Don’t think I don’t want you to run in it. Let it be a fun run where you and Nicole can enjoy and talk about your seasons over the twenty-six miles. Can you do that for me?” Coach Kappa asked.
“I can, Coach. Can I sit with my friends now?” asked Lisa.
Later that night, Lisa struggled to fall asleep. It was eleven p.m. and she was wide awake as she might be at noontime. She wondered if Nicole were awake. She texted her.
Lisa flipped her iPhone over on the lamp table next to her bed, turned off the light and pulled the blankets up over her head. No way was Nicole awake.
Sixty seconds later, the text ringtone.
What’s happening Lisa?
Lisa grabbed her phone.
Didn’t hear from you when I text about the league. You okay?
Nicole texted back.
Sorry. I really am sorry. We were out on a long training run. We have the league championships on Wednesday. Plus, I have a paper due Monday and a big Chem exam on Tuesday.
Lisa Texted back.
It’s Ok. Coach Kappa thinks we can capture states. She says we’re peaking at the right time.
Lisa watched the little bubbles dancing on her phone.
Awesome. What was your time?
Lisa was ready for Nicole’s question.
Mia ran 14.50, course record, Marie ran 15:02, I ran 15:04.
Lisa didn’t wait long for Nicole’s reply.
Lisa, you beat my freshman time at the league meet by eight seconds. Think you’ll catch Marie at the regionals?
I going to give it all I’ve got.
That’s the spirit. I have a hunch you’ll be the number two runner going into states. Can’t wait to run the Thanksgiving marathon w/ U. G2G
Lisa stared at the text message. She read it, and read it again and again. She closed her eyes and pictured Nicole and she running in the marathon … and she fell into a deep sleep.
We Cannot Live Without Love
by Pope John Paul II
We cannot live without love.
If we do not encounter love,
If we do not experience it and make it our own,
And if we do not participate intimately in it,
Our life is meaningless.
Without love we remain incomprehensible to ourselves.
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?
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.”
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.