"Get out of
your sweats. Let's go."
The middle third
of the mile-and-a-hall-long hill-zipper course is a quarter-mile uphill
followed by a quarter-mile descent. We run it as a group for the first half a
mile, then Monster—healthy now—pushes it up the hill and we string out.
Everyone finishes between 7:50 and 8:20. Breathing hard, we huddle around
Coach, who asks us to take our own pulse while he clocks off fifteen seconds.
When everyone's pulse is below 100 per minute, which takes four or five
minutes, he starts us off again. We do this four times and the workout is over.
It takes less than an hour.
After we finish
we again surround Coach, who invariably expounds on one of his favorite
subjects in his characteristic manner, didactic and uncompromising. His talks
vary, but they emphasize the same themes. Coping with pressure. Accepting pain
as part of any worthwhile endeavor. Sacrificing to accomplish personal goals.
We know he speaks from experience. He put himself through college on a track
scholarship, and he continued to run while he was in medical school, later
becoming a respected plastic surgeon. During this time he and his wife raised
four children two already teen-agers. He is on all accounts a successful man
and he's done it without special privilege. Nevertheless, he's telling me
things I don't want to hear. As much as I like him. I resent his prescribing my
life for me. I am young and sure of myself.
Still. I scramble
for his attention with everyone else on the team. He and Les have a
relationship that is like a father to a son, and I am jealous. I wish he knew
and cared enough about me to tease me about my girl friend.
from that season and the two that preceded it often come to mind:
Coach driving us
to the park out of town for the first time. We have known him a day. We turn
onto a busy two-lane road near campus. While we nod agreeably. Coach tells us.
"This is the only road in town you need to know. This road goes everywhere.
Just remember that." We are freshmen; we believe him. For the next four
years, long after we know better, this road. Woodlawn on maps, is known to us
only as The Road That Goes Everywhere.
We are at the
park out of town. It is late afternoon of a late October day and sunlight flows
down the face of the hill. We are finishing a figure-eight workout—much like a
zipper workout, except that we climb the hill twice during each mile-and-a-half
repeat. Because Coach must drive us to the park, we run these on days when he
can run with us. He and Monster and Jeff and Caldwell usually finish together.
On the last figure eight today, though. Monster has worn down everybody and is
by himself at the top of the last hill, 50 yards ahead of Jeff and Caldwell.
Coach is lagging another 20 yards behind. The course cuts down through some
woods before finishing on a 300-yard, flat, grassy straight. Coming out of the
woods Monster has a comfortable lead, but Coach will not let him rest.
Furiously driving, he passes Jeff and Caldwell and closes in Monster hears him
coming and kicks but he can't check the assault and Coach blows by him SO yards
from the finish.
It is a display
designed to impress us, and it does. We often run these workouts as hard as
meets. Although we like each other, competition among teammates is intense. We
would each like to establish our position on the team, and the only way to do
that is to beat other people consistently, in practice as well as in races.
Respect is always earned. Coach knows this, too. He knows that if he is to make
a difference we must respect him, we must know he is capable of enduring what
he asks us to endure.
We are waiting
for Coach. He is even later than usual and we have a meet today with our
crosstown rivals. We begin to worry. We have no other means of transportation.
We discuss jogging over to their campus, but it's five miles away. Finally his
Vega rounds the corner and hurries to the curb. We cram in. He is wearing his
operating room clothes.
"I won't be
able to make it to the meet today." he tells us. "You'll have to take
the car and drop me off back at the hospital. I'm due in surgery right