Thanksgiving is all about spending time with family, whether biological or otherwise, so I suppose it’s only fitting that for Thanksgiving 2012 I should tell you about an experience I got to have thanks to my big sister.
Erin is an assistant coach for a kids’ running group in Alamosa, Colorado, called the Penguins. The Penguins are currently competing in the Junior Olympics Cross-Country meets – they cruised through their State meet, and the National meet is next month. Last weekend was the Southwestern Regional meet, held at Albuquerque’s own Balloon Fiesta Park.
While my sis went in her official capacity, her husband and I tagged along essentially as gofers – to distribute race numbers and pins, help with warm-ups, cheer, etc. I figured there would likely be lots of trotting around, so I wore running togs (besides, opportunities to run on a huge field blanketed with plush grass come few and very far between in the Duke City, so I wasn’t about to miss my chance due to unsuitable garb).
I’ll say this right off the bat: 1) any day spent almost entirely in running clothes can never be a bad one, and 2) it’s been too long since I’ve gone to a cross-country meet.
Our day started early; we arrived at the park around 7 am to prepare for the first race at 8. It was cold – Albuquerque supposedly got up to 60 degrees that afternoon, but as anyone familiar with Balloon Fiesta Park will tell you, the park’s temperatures stay about 10 or 15 degrees cooler than other parts of town. This led to lots of layering, coffee/cocoa-drinking, and some good-natured grousing from the spectators, but darned if it wasn’t prime weather for cross-country racing.
Since the ages of the runners ranged from around 8 to 18, there were a lot of races. And since delays occurred, as delays will do at most big meets, it stretched into a …rather long day. At one point, I slouched on the ground between races, fantasizing about coffee and gazing enviously at a young runner stretched out on a chair, a couple of blankets draped over him, fast asleep.
No matter! It was a fun day. I jogged alongside everyone from 3rd-grade girls to middle-school boys during their warm-ups, which was awesome, not to mention extremely entertaining. I made a couple jokes and laughed at others, and wondered to myself, “Will these kids still be running 10 or 20 years from now? Who knows?” I do know that I loved watching the races, and seeing the tired but determined look that I know has etched itself on my own face so often. I loved watching parents hug their kids after they crossed the finish line. I loved watching and hearing the young runners be so supportive of each other. I loved that the Penguins’ coach, “Coach D,” spoke to so many of his runners individually about their races, even though I can’t imagine how chaotic his day must have been.
I loved, and continue to love, the fact that being around it all made me want to go for a run like right now.
Running is a gift that keeps on giving…and for this, I give many, many thanks.