This Sunday afternoon was markedly different from last Sunday. Instead of mud and rain, we had beautiful sunny skies and temps in the mid 50’s. Of course, for me, the major difference was I did not run with guys, but instead rode my bike. Yeah, still trying to be smart and let my ankle heal. It is still pretty sore, hopefully it is not worse than I initially thought! This non-running does not alleviate my hyperness at all. At least I was able to bike though. We did not have a large crew today, but Joseph and Julie were there, Nathan -aka- Superman Gaudin, Steve Shaffer, Kate Mattox, and Cameron Vincent. Cameron graduated from MSU this past year, where he was a member of the XC and track teams. We love it when people of his caliber come out and run with us. It is an inspiration to these young runners we have. I hope we can get him out there some more. Cameron is just getting back into running after having had knee surgery last year, but is already in fantastic overall shape. Joseph took off in front of everybody, Nathan also got a quick start, and I cruised along with the Steve and Cameron for a bit. Julie did her own route and started out behind us. Then Kate showed up, her family were on their way back from his sister’s swim meet, and she really wanted to run, so they dropped her off along the course. I rode along with her for a little while, then rejoined Steve and Nathan. Cameron had apparently warmed up and put quite a bit of space between him and them. After riding with them for a few minutes, I went back and rode along side Kate the rest of the way. It is different to be riding a bike beside the kids. It is easier to watch how they run. Kate did a great job, and ran about 4 miles at a nice, steady relaxed pace. She is really coming along! If she can keep it up, she is going to be one heck of a runner!
When we got back, Nathan and Cameron were already done. They did a slightly shorter route than Joseph and Steve, who did the 7 mile loop. It was not long before they showed up. We hung around talking about running and exercise a while. Apparently, Cameron’s dad also runs. He is about 3 years older than me and lives down on the MS coast. Not surprising. So often, especially in MS, when you have a high school kid who excels in distance running to the point where he can run in college, it is 9 times out of 10 the direct result of having a father or other family member who pushed, trained, and encouraged them since they were kids to become runners. People who love to run can not help but encourage people to run. When these people have kids, their kids grow up thinking that distance running is normal. It takes this year to year and growing up running regularly to make a really good distance runner. There are a few singularly motivated individuals who do not need this motivation, and can do this on their own, but there are not many. I said especially in MS, because distance running in this state is not very important here. In this land where football is religion, little money is provided in schools for cross country teams. Coaches are underpaid, or not paid at all. For example, I was a volunteer head coach at Starkville Academy last year. We would not even have had a team if we didn’t reinstate the program the year before that, when I was considered the assistant coach. I was actually the coach that year too, but the athletic director wanted her protege to get some more exposure, so she was the head coach on paper. This year, Joseph is at the Starkville Public High School, where I also get to volunteer with the distance runners. Although, in this case, they have actual paid coaches! In general though, there are few quality distance coaches in the state. Even the absolute best ones would be considered mediocre at a national level, where the top five runners on good XC teams may average around 15 minutes for a 5k race. Compare this to MS, a state where if someone runs a 5k under 16 minutes, it is considered extraordinary. On the flip side, a school in Panola County, MS had the number one football team in the country. It would be nice to see this changed at some point in the future. Until then, we will have to live with the fact that the few schools who happen to have decent coaches are going to dominate the other schools that refuse to consider hiring quality coaches. With the plethora of XC runners graduating from colleges in the state and region, many with degrees in Kinesiology, it would be nice to be able to pay them enough money to stay and coach in our area! Until then, if then, distancing running in MS will continue to lag behind much of the nation. Without parody among the running programs in the state, the best coaches in our state do not have to do much to win. It is almost too easy for them. I wonder if that is the reason we never have seen a truly good distance team emerge from the state???