Be Careful What You Ask For
Nice to be back at the keyboard after a battle with the flu last week, as we head into a big sports weekend. College basketball’s Final Four takes the stage this weekend with Gonzaga taking on surprising South Carolina, while North Carolina battles Oregon in the other National semi-final matchup.
Combine the NCAA Championship Game with baseball’s Opening Day on Monday, and it’s a great time to be a sports fan. There is nothing like Opening Day. Hope is renewed, the grass is a little greener, the uniforms are a little whiter, and as the group Thin Lizzy sang, “The Boys Are Back In Town.” GO NATS!
Now, for today’s topic. Despite a touch of the aforementioned flu last Saturday, I felt good enough to run the Edward Jones 5k Race for Education in Front Royal. I have worked hard the last several months putting in the mileage and dropping some unwanted holiday “LB’s”. The work paid off, as I smashed by goal of finishing in under 30-minutes. I even (if I read the race results correctly) won my gender-age category of men 50-59. Never mind that I think I was the only runner in my classification to participate. Let’s not let facts get in the way of my victory!
My performance Saturday took me back in time to the only other race that I ever won. The year was around 1975, when I was a miler at North Martinsburg (WV) Junior High School. In our first meet of the year against Shepherdstown, I won the mile in 5:16, pretty good for junior high. However in my “runners high” after the race, I let out these words in my state of jubilation:
“Bring on Chris Fox…”
There was one name that defined area running in the mid to late 70’s. Chris Fox. The diminutive South Junior High runner would go on to later fame by participating in the Olympic trials. As far as I know, Chris is the only individual athlete at Martinsburg High School to be given his own parade, after winning the State Cross Country Championship. As a footnote, Fox would also make a pretty good opponent in our weekly study-hall games of “Sports Illustrated’s Thinking Man’s Football,” a great board-game. I believe Chris is now the XC coach at Syracuse University.
But in Junior High, I was not even a blip on his radar, even though he was on mine. I would get my wish a week later when NJHS, SJHS, and Frederick competed in a tri-meet at Martinsburg High. Time came for the mile run, and my strategy was to stay right on Fox’s heels until the final 200 yards or so, then out-kick him at the end. That was the strategy I had employed in my victory the week before.
From the outset, I realized that Chris Fox was not human. He chugged out lap after lap at the same efficient pace, as I fell further and further behind. He wasn’t even breathing hard as he cruised across the finish line in under 5 minutes. Fox also demoralized me to the point that I allowed myself to be passed at the end by a Frederick runner, and finished third (albeit in a respectable 5:14.5).
My brief track career would be derailed by shin splints and my love for baseball, until years later when I would, like millions of folks, buy a pair of running shoes and hit the roads, something I still enjoy today into my late 50’s.
But on that day in the Spring of ’75, the humble pie was hard to swallow. The lesson, be careful what you ask for.
That’s it from the Booth. Until next week…GO HORNETS!