Slow and unsteady doesn't win the race
I was born to be a great runner. I was a natural.
Or at least that was my hope. My older brother had been a great runner. One of the best in school history. He had gone to states in the 800 and 1,600 meters in the only year he ran instead of doing the high jump.
So we Gallo boys must have had some sort of natural inclination to long-distance running. Had to. It was easy for us. And I wasn't the only one who thought this. The high school cross country coach had been begging me to come out for the team since I was in middle school. I was a good athlete -- basketball was my best sport -- and was probably considered a better athlete than my brother at the "traditional" sports. So just think how awesome I would be at running! She couldn't wait to find out.
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In my sophomore year I finally gave in. Did I want to run? No. I hated running. But I thought cross country might be an easy way to get in better shape for basketball, where I hoped to earn some major varsity minutes that season -- and if while running cross country, I happened to be a superstar, win all kinds of meets, be selected for the Olympic team and raise the spirits of the community with each blazing step I took ... so be it.
Then the first practice came. It was hot. We had to run -- I don't know -- five miles or so. I don't think we made it off school property before I had dropped to the back of the pack. It went on for a few weeks like that. We'd head out on a run and I'd just jog until we mercifully returned home. You could see the hope for state championship glory in my coach's face fade with each plodding, sweaty step I took. I was truly a natural.
I was naturally slow.
One day, about a week before our first meet, we headed off on a training run that was in a different direction than any we'd done before. And we kept running. And running. And running. Farther and farther away from the school, all the while realizing that we'd have to run the entire way back from wherever it was we were going. Our coach wouldn't tell us. Turns out we ran 15.4 miles. Without warning.
I honestly don't remember much of the rest of the season after that. The 15-miler probably caused several parts of my brain to shut down for survival. I do remember inventing excuses to miss a lot of practices. I remember running in some meets and never finishing much above the middle of the pack. And I clearly remember hating running and thinking going out for cross country was the worst decision of my young life.
My brother's records were not at risk. And the track coach no longer bugged me about coming out in the spring.
The next year I played for the golf team instead. Not the best preparation for basketball. But, hey -- free golf. Some days we'd see the cross country team running by the course. Poor people. I'd wonder if anyone on the team was thinking what I was thinking when I was in their running shoes running along the same path a year before: Someone please hit me in the temple with a drive.
DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He also is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book, "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck," is on sale now.
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