As you can probably guess I enjoy following the post high school running accomplishments of all those I have had the privilege of coaching. This morning while looking to the West Point schedule (you all know THAT graduate) I found a blog entry titled "Carry That Weight" on the USMA Cross Country website, written by a member of the team, that I found particularly interesting and inspirational. That entry follows below. It speaks to the challenge you have chosen, the importance of how we perform our jobs, and the commitment we have to each other in what is absolutely a team effort. Better than I could ever say it . . .
The middle of a cross country race is arguably the most challenging. No, this is not the most physically exhausting portion. The "get this elephant off my back" phase is a last mile-phenomenon. The middle presents an even greater challenge than mere physical pain and hyperbolic metaphors.
The middle of a race is the "fighting with myself" phase. The adrenaline of the frenzied (in my case) beginning has faded. The fatigue begins to stream through your veins. Your labored breathing seems deafening, even more so than your particularly zealous fans, who may also be family members (obviously not you, Dad). You are attempting to stem a tide of self-doubt. It's a sadistic test.
But unlike most tests, you volunteered for this one, didn't you? You didn't wake up in a basement to a mechanical voice asking rhetorically, do you want to play a game? No. You chose cross country over a less painful sport. Whether you did so for lack of hand-eye coordination or masochistic tendencies is irrelevant. We stood behind that line together. And now we're climbing this seemingly insufferable hill together that just happens to peak at mile two.
Earlier, I affixed the title "fighting with myself" to the middle of a race. This is not quite accurate. I will amend it slightly: "fighting with my selfishness."
It is difficult to transcend physical pain, self-doubt. Humans, like any other animal, are selfish. We are subjects of our own hunger, exhaustion and pain. In a race, we can only rise above these selfish needs by focusing on something other than ourselves. That is, of course, our teammates.
And this is the weight we carry, midway through the season. Not the weight of aggregate fatigue or frustration, but the weight of our teammates. Know the faded adrenaline, the fatigue that streams through her veins. Hear her labored breathing. Realize now, more than ever, that you must carry her weight, so she can carry mine. And I can carry yours.