Ever find that you get to the point where you just can’t wait for Autumn’s cool temperatures and amazing colors? That smell in the air that tells you Autumn is here….campfires at night–or in the morning with a cup of steaming coffee….yessir, there’s much to look forward to about Autumn. This season of brilliant colors that leads into gentle snowfalls as the Christmas season arrives is my favorite time of the year.
Autumn makes me think back to my high school days when I ran Cross Country. That’s a fall season sport that goes from pre-conditioning in mid-August to Invitationals on the state level in early- to mid-November. I remember around the end of June thinking that I needed to get out there and start running every day to begin my conditioning for the mid-August Cross Country practices we would be having. Man, if you didn’t prepare ahead of time for those, your butt got kicked all over the place for a good week. Really, though, no matter how much you thought you had prepared for those practices, you still got your butt kicked–especially by “The Ski Hill”.
We had a beautiful CC course that took us through 3.1 miles of wooded areas, fields and wide open spaces. The ominous Ski Hill was encountered deep within the bowels of that mysterious and formidable span of time between the second and third mile known as “The Twilight Zone” of any CC course. The Ski Hill was encountered just as runners came out of a patch of woods and into a small field where the path curved to the right. You couldn’t see it right away, but as you started into the field, there it would be, looming ahead, taunting your exhaustion and stretching you beyond what you thought you could do. It was a decent hill–more steep than long–and just as you got to the top, the path curved to the right again, back into the woods and went right back down a smaller wooded hill. About fifty yards down the trail, where the CC course trail kept going straight, a path went to the right which took you right back around to the Ski Hill again. So imagine that mid-August pre-season practice when the coach tells everyone that after their warm-up they will be doing ten Ski Hill loops…and then on to something else. Yeah…..pure excitement….one big goose bump…..
The only redeeming quality the Ski Hill possessed was the fact that the downhill slope contained a small grove of apple trees where the apples never grew into anything bigger than an oversized golf ball. These apples in the hands of upperclassmen instantly became the projectiles of choice that would be launched with amazing accuracy at all of the underclassmen on the team. If the underclassmen came back to the school with red welts all over their backs and legs (they were always running away for some reason), everyone else knew what had happened and what would be done about it (….nothing).
I hate running. Never liked it. Yet I ran four years of Cross Country, enduring such atrocities as the Ski Hill loops. What’s up with that? I can tell you that I enjoyed the camaraderie and the Fall scenery, but beyond that I have no logical reason to give you for such asinine behavior on my part. At this point of my life, I suppose that some things just aren’t meant to be explained….