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Schools of Thought: Leaving it all on the field

November 10, 2008
By Bill Cain, The Leader-Herald

When Broadalbin-Perth sent both its boys' and girls' cross country teams to the state meet Saturday, it was the realization of a goal set six years ago.

That was quite an accomplishment. It would be in any sport. I think it's even more so in cross country, which is possibly the most intense sport out there.

Think about the origin or running.

Somewhere along the line, a hairy, barefoot man we'll call Ug was walking along on two legs, digging his new uprightness, thinking how different the world looked from 5 feet off the ground.

It probably wasn't long before some big bear thing or tiger thing sprang from the bushes and tackled this guy's friend, Um-uh. Suddenly, those two legs started moving pretty fast, probably a bit awkwardly at first.

Running was born.

Somewhere along the line, some crazy descendent of Ug started running for recreation.

Now we have cross country.

Cross country is far more intense than its poor cousin, track. Track has, well, a track. A nice rubber surface, a well-defined route around a field. Cross country takes runners through the woods, maybe over the river, but never to grandmother's house. Just more trails to run on and eventually a small cup of water you drink while doubled over with your knees digging into the mud at the end of the chute.

These athletes run hard, even when they're pacing themselves. Pacing themselves, they move faster than I could if I was being chased by a big bear thing.

They run harder when they have to and, when they are finished, maybe they throw up.

Talk about leaving it all on the field.

All the coaches and players in the fun sports talk about leaving it all on the field or court or whatever surface on which they compete. None of them expect their players or teammates to exert themselves to the point of hurling. They just want their best effective effort.

Other sports offer more than just pain. There is fun and, in most cases, camaraderie that helps make up for what pain there is.

Running is more solitary, although cross country teams are usually fairly close and usually a little quirky and their fun is had off the course.

Once on the course, there is just the win - for self or team. Running faster and/or farther than you did the day before. Catching that person in front of you, so they will be eaten by the big bear thing instead of you.

Oh, and there is the pain, but you ignore it. Giving in to the pain gets you eaten, and that is more painful.

In other sports, running is punishment for screwing up in practice.

In the communities that produce the top cross country teams, there usually is a larger sub-culture of runners than in other communities.

Crazy people.

The Broadalbin-Perth school district apparently has such a group. You have to be at least a little crazy to put in all the necessary work to excel at running without being chased.

Bill Cain is a sportswriter for The Leader-Herald. We invite your feedback on this or any other sports-related topic. E-mail your opinions or ideas to us at



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