I have run before. Sure, I’m not exactly the fastest kid on the block, but I like to lose my breath and find a sweaty rhythm.
(Get your mind out of the gutter).
(Oh my god, I just grossed myself out. I’m sorry).
The point, though, is that I have not run cross country, really, before today, when I raced in the Cumbernauld relay with the St. Andrews team. I may not have realized it, but cross country is not just about running. Apparently it’s about crossing the country, also known as the wet and wild terrain of a particular region. I will explain.
First of all, there is this big huge field, misshapen by hills — like somebody was needing a whole lot of dough and then got distracted and left it on the counter, where it hardened into a sloping monstrosity. In this scenario, we are like really organized ants running around on the dough. I’m going to move away from the metaphor, though, before it really starts to break down. I just hope you understand how hilly it really was.
Second, imagine mud. Imagine sloppy, squishy black mud, with just enough grass in it that you think you might actually be in a normal field, until you walk over it and your shoes fill with water and there is a sucking noise when you lift your foot up.
Third, consider that you are running in winding circles over the hilly, muddy field, with no idea how far you’ve gone or where you currently are in the terrain, because from the bottom of one hill you can’t see the rest of the field and also because you have literally been running in large winding curves alongside a piece of tape that has been pinned into the ground. At one point, the wind picked up and this tape attacked me and I almost fell in the mud, but it worked out because I leapt into the air over it, like an overeager ant on the dough, and then considered that if I could do that, then I should run faster, so I tried to run faster, but found myself in a swamp moments later.
Fortunately, I also made it past the swamp, but not without first imagining that my life might flash before my eyes at any second.
Last, this was a relay, so after I finished my 4k, I had two team members who followed me over the course. Our cumulative time was around 58 minutes because we are awesome. It was really cold. Then the boys on our team went — they had four people per team — and Andy gave me his a camera. It was still really cold. But I got to take pictures of everyone, and action shots of runners, and that made me exceedingly happy.
Now I understand the concept of cross country.