A little mud wrestling

regionals start

120 runners are lined up across the starting line at the girls regional cross country meet. At the starter’s signal they crouch and ready themselves for the start. The gun fires and the long line quickly forms into a pack, with runners jostling for position. Elbows are thrown and runners are pushed.

Standing at the slight rise about 200m from the start, the mass of runners moves toward us. You can hear the pounding of 240 feet, even on grass. Family, fellow students, and fans line the course and ring cowbells. I’ve watched my daughter play a lot of sports over the years but none of them has a scene that compares to this.

regionals 2

Of those 120 girls on the start line, only those on the top 4 teams or top 16 individuals will run again the next week at the state finals. Stakes are high.

The course and conditions on this day are a true test. I run back and forth to different spots on the course to take pictures, but mostly want to watch the drama and not be distracted by the camera. I hear a number of parents talk about girls being sick all week but still insisting on racing (count my daughter among them).

The best spot on the course is a short-but-steep, muddy grade. Some runners slip and fall. The smart ones find the firmest ground just over the edge of the course lines. They have no regard for the fans crowding the course; we are forced to step back.

regionals 3
Those who can power through the mud begin to separate themselves. The rest try to find the strength to not give up; they are faced with a cold, wet slog to the finish. The fans cheer for all of them, down to the last runner.

In the end, there are more tears than smiles. Several girls lose shoes and finish the race in muddy socks that will never again be clean. One is carried to the medical tent by her teammates. One faints after the finish. Another is bent over, vomiting. One sports a large clump of mud in the middle of her forehead — apparently the result of a face-plant.

No one can doubt that the most deserving are going on to race again next week.

regionals 4



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16 responses to “A little mud wrestling

  1. Jim

    Did it myself and remember it well. The difference is that my parents never saw me run. Those are moments, with your child, that can never be replaced. Cherish every one of them.

  2. Wow, gave me the chicken-skin just reading your description. Reminded me of the thousands of feet pounding the pavement at the start of the Akron Marathon. Sans mud though.

    Sorry your daughter nor her team made it to the State competition.

    Reminds me of a line from ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ (and I am probably misquoting, but you’ll get the idea)

    The only real losers are the people that are so afraid of losing that they never try.

    • Brian

      thanks. I was talking to someone today who said the state championship meet is even more intense (I can imagine). Maybe next year.

      Looking at some pics from the NYC marathon last Sunday … there is something very cool about a big mass of runners.

  3. Bob Martin

    The State Meet is insane. I was fortunate enough to compete in 2 events during my CC days. Couple things I remember from those races – first mile of the race was stupid fast @ something like 4:45 & 16:39 5k which would net a quality result at any weekend invitational but gets you mid pack @ the State meet. Great experience, wouldn’t trade those memories for a win on the bike.

    • Brian

      Cool. Where was the state meet then? Now they have it at the Scioto Downs race track. (which is fitting, I suppose). I think it used to be on the OSU golf course.

      Just after the girls’ start, when they passed where I was (about 200m), I turned and tried to run to beat them to where I could cross the course. They were flying. I was on a full-out run and they were going the same speed.

      • Bob Martin

        I ran both courses. They switched to Scioto downs my senior year – real fast course and the grandstand was packed with spectators that roared when the gun went off and as you returned to the infield for the finish.

  4. Pingback: My turn for fun in the mud « Über die Brücke

  5. Brian

    Results of the state meet:

    Some pretty fast times compared to regionals. And some who ran slower (comparatively). I’m guessing a super-fast start probably blew up a lot of runners.

  6. Brian

    Just a note on comments: I’m all for humor (even non-PC humor) and not taking things too seriously.

    They should at least be funny though.

  7. Anonymous


    • Brian

      I have declared myself dictator of this banana republic, and we have no freedom of speech.

      • Anonymous



  8. Cyril

    And as a (top) banana, I am offended as well.

  9. Flush Limburgh

    My friends, republics are for republicans, not for fruits or fairies.

  10. Tinkerbell

    As a past president of BUFOON (Benevolent Union of Faries, Order of Neverland), I do not appreciate your reference, Mister Limburgh.

    Thanks to the trade policies of your friends, fairy dust is up 300% in the last year.

    And I’m still fighting with my insurance company for reimbursement of hospitalization expenses when my wand shorted last December and burned my hand. Yet you and your ilk are fighting health care reform at every turn.

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