Skip to main content

A Cross-Country Coach Remembered

A Cross-Country Coach Remembered

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

I'm not a young man anymore. I got a harsh reminder last week when my family and I went for a walk in our local park. As we walked back to the car, we got separated; my two youngest were with me, my oldest daughter and wife were a couple hundred yards ahead.

"Let's catch up with them," I said.

"How? They're so far," said my kids, so I started running. "Hey!"

Clearly they weren't expecting this. Or prepared for it, since they stopped after we had covered half the distance. My wife and oldest daughter spotted us and took off, so I kept running after them, the two youngest complaining about "all this running." Eventually, our eldest dropped off, and I chased my wife all the way back to the car.

"Come on, Erik, catch that guy," shouted my cross-country coach, Joe Rogers. "He's the only one between us and the championship!"

It was 1981, and I was 13 years old, running in the 8th grade cross-country regional championships in Richmond, Indiana. A mile and a half of a bunch of skinny, gangly 13-year-olds chasing each other through a park.

"Go, Erik! Go, Erik!" I could still hear him, nearly 28 years later, as I chased down the runner in front of me.

Mr. Rogers was the cross-country coach and a science teacher at McKinley Middle School in Muncie, Indiana. He been a runner for years, in a time when running was just for getting into shape for other sports, and for criminals.

Don't get me wrong, Joe Rogers was a great coach. We wanted to run for this crazy little man who had taken to running like a duck takes to water. A cannonball-calfed, endorphin addicted duck.

I ran because my dad was a runner. He started running around the time he got married, but I figured he couldn't have been too good at it, since my mom managed to catch him and bring him back home each night.

When I started 7th grade, Mr. Rogers introduced himself and said, "I know your dad. Are you a runner like him? Why don't you try out for cross-country?" I said okay, since I didn't know 1) anyone else, or 2) any better.

Turns out, I didn't enjoy running. It hurt, it was hard, and we had to do it every day. I was the slowest guy on the 7th grade team, and Sean Harshey was the slowest guy on the 8th grade team. We didn't care, we were the best joggers in town. Nobody could jog as thoroughly as we could.

While the rest of my teammates were turning in sub-6 minute miles, we were planted firmly in the 8-minute mark. While some of our teammates would make fun of us, we enjoyed ourselves. However, my 8th grade year was a different story.

"I'm tired of being last," I told myself. "I'm not going to be the slowest guy on the team anymore." And during our first practice of the year, I ran harder than I had ever run before. I still remember it. It was a half-mile heat (we ran about five miles that day), and I finished fifth out of the 15 guys who had showed up for our first practice.

"Wow, what happened to you, Erik? You were the slowest guy last year," said Mr. Rogers, stunned.

"I'm not going to do that anymore," I said.

"Great. I knew you had it in you."

That year, I never jogged again, I ran. Only the top five finishers from each team count in a race, and I never missed a top five finish that season. And in Richmond that fall, heading for the finish, I had 10th place sewn up. A guaranteed placement, but Mr. Rogers was yelling at me to chase the guy down, and beat him at the line.

"He's the only one between us and the championship!" he hollered. "Go, Erik! Go, Erik!"

I squeezed out the little I had left in the tank, passed him, and reached the finish.

"You're out of breath, old man," said my wife.

"You sound a little shaky yourself there," I said. We wandered slowly around the car, hands on our hips, trying not to show the other we were out of breath. A sweaty victory hug, a short wait for the kids to show up, and we were back in the car, headed for home.

With the smug satisfaction that comes from knowing that while we were much older, we were still faster than our kids.


---
Like this post? Leave a comment, Digg it, or Stumble it.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

AYFKMWTS?! FBI Creates 88 Page Twitter Slang Guide

TFBIHCAEEPTSD.

Did you get that? It's an acronym. Web slang. It's how all the teens and young people are texting with their tweeters and Facer-books on their cellular doodads.

It stands for "The FBI has created an eighty-eight page Twitter slang dictionary."

See, you would have known that if you had the FBI's 88 page Twitter slang dictionary.

Eighty-eight pages! Of slang! AYFKMWTS?! (Are you f***ing kidding me with this s***?! That's actually how they spell it in the guide, asterisks and everything. You know, in case the gun-toting agents who catch mobsters and international terrorists get offended by salty language.)

I didn't even know there were 88 Twitter acronyms, let alone enough acronyms to fill 88 pieces of paper.

The FBI needs to be good at Twitter because they're reading everyone's tweets to see if anyone is planning any illegal activities. Because that's what terrorists do — plan their terroristic activities publicly, as if they were…

Understanding 7 Different Types of Humor

One of my pet peeves is when people say they have a "dry" sense of humor, without actually understanding what it actually means.

"Dry" humor is not just any old type of humor. It's not violent, not off-color, not macabre or dark.

Basically, dry humor is that deadpan style of humor. It's the not-very-funny joke your uncle the cost analysis accountant tells. It's Bob Newhart, Steven Wright, or Jason Bateman in Arrested Development.

It is not, for the love of GOD, people, the Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I swear, if anyone says Monty Python is "dry humor" is going to get a smack.

Here are some other types of comedy you may have heard and are just tossing around, willy-nilly.

Farce: Exaggerated comedy. Characters in a farce get themselves in an unlikely or improbable situation that takes a lot of footwork and fast talking to get out of. The play "The Foreigner" is an example of a farce, as are many of the Jeeves &…

What Are They Thinking? The Beloit College Mindset List

Every year at this time, the staff at Beloit College send out their new student Mindset List as a way to make everyone clutch their chest and feel the cold hand of death.

This list was originally created and shared with their faculty each year, so the faculty would understand what some of their own cultural touchstones might mean, or not mean, to the incoming freshmen. They also wanted the freshmen to know it was not cool to refer to '80s music as "Oldies."

This year's incoming Beloit freshmen are typically 18 years old, born in 1999. John F. Kennedy Jr. died that year, as did Stanley Kubrick and Gene Siskel. And so did my hope for a society that sought artistic and intellectual pursuits for the betterment of all humanity. Although it may have actually died when I heard about this year's Emoji Movie.

Before I throw my hands up in despair, here are a few items from the Mindset list for the class of 2021.

They're the last class to be born in the 1900s, and are t…