This weekend the team competed in the Paul Short Invite at Lehigh. For the uninitiated, this meet is a pretty big deal. In fact, it could be considered as the start of… (drumroll, please)…Championship Season! Championship Season is always accompanied by a motivational speech by my coach. My high school coach’s favorite line during this speech was “this is NOT the time to take up skydiving”. My college coach knows better than to put such ideas in our heads.
Paul Short, like all meets of its caliber, was a very exciting experience that also made me a little nauseous. Literally some of the best cross country teams in the nation were at this meet. The woman who won ran a 6k in under 20 minutes. That’s a 5:20 mile for well over 3 miles. So the first exciting thing about this meet is running on the same course as these people, literally brushing shoulders with these giants of running (but it’s distance running; the giant bit is all in the figurative). My other favorite part of the meet was its sheer size. There were hundreds of people in my race, and probably thousands of people at the race, if you take spectators into account. There’s nothing like the start of a big cross country race; all the colors of the uniforms mixing together as runners jostle, elbow, and occasionally trample each other for position, streaming across a wide expanse of open field before we all get funneled into a tiny path in the woods. It was also over 80 degrees out, which added another level of challenge. In fact, it was so hot that the meet had to be cancelled halfway through due to inclement weather, which, as the survivors of Centennial Conference XC ’11 will confirm, does not happen often.
The next few parts of Championship Season are as follows: the Seven Sisters meet 2 weeks from now, Conferences, and then Regionals. Seven Sisters is exciting because we get to run against women we rarely see for the rest of the year, and also we get delicious food after at the Seven Sisters banquet. The banquet is special because we meet women from other women’s colleges. There are some universals across the board which create a feeling of sisterhood, but there is always a moment in the conversation where the rest of the table will stop and stare at you (this is around the time lanterns are mentioned). Often the race is far away, and after a 6-hour drive full of an incredibly eclectic selection of movies and several cat naps, the whole team gets shuttled into a hotel. We are told to “get lots of sleep” and then are left alone with some of our closest friends. Naturally, we first roam all of the floors, looking for a pool, an ice machine, hot chocolate, a free popcorn machine, and other delights. Then we figure out sleeping arrangements and chit-chat into the night, allowing our teammates to share the burden of our collective race anxiety.