amused; his eyes flash playfully. "She's cute.... Keep Lester away from
He leaves us to
talk to the other team's coach. It is close to race time now and we are quiet,
collecting ourselves for the effort ahead. We know that in a few minutes we
will suffer excruciating pain, and we know too that this pain is justified only
when we run well. These minutes before a race are filled with dread and an
Coach returns and
looks at us, one after another.
ready? O.K. Help each other out there today. Run together. Pack it in. Their
top man is good, so let him go."
He pauses. He is
not prone to the verbiage normally heard in prerace pep talks.
We strip off our
sweats as we go to the line. The starting gun fires and we're off, stampeding
across an open field toward the first turn. The course is flat and grassy and
not particularly scenic, but the park is in the country and Tennessee country
is beautiful at this time of year.
the most idyllic of running sports. The races, which in college are between
four and six miles long, are run on golf courses, trails, neighborhood
streets—anywhere except around a track. Landscape is an important part of
The start of the
race is fast, and Roach is as good as his reputation. He assumes command early,
and the rest of us are running for second. Monster is still weak and I make a
wrong turn—a "mental lapse" according to Coach—and lose a place I never
regain. The two teams tie.
We walk-jog a
mile to cool down, then drift back into a circle around Coach. Although we know
we should have won today, he seems pleased with our effort. He wants us to
build slowly through the season, peaking for the conference meet in November,
and today we showed him we're in good base condition. We review the race mile
by mile. Coach tells us he'll meet us early in the morning for our Sunday run,
and we're back at school by noon.