Today I Learned: Running in October is an agonizing, wonderful idea


Josiah Stoll, Reporter, Columnist, Cartoonist

October 10, 2018. “It looks like a real nasty one today.” Someone says to me as we pass each other in the hallway. As we get dressed in the locker room, the air crackles with anticipation. The middle schoolers arrived bearing grim news about the weather, almost always inflated to make them look tougher. Not today, though. Today, most of the middle schoolers could stay home from practice; the weather outside is too rough for them. That thought sends jitters of uncertainty through us, nobody ever gets out of practice for weather. There’s an air of honor in the room too, as each of us goes through his own pre-run rituals. Some of us wear tights or leggings to protect their calves, some of us wear gloves to keep their hands from going numb. Some of us wear hats to protect their ears, but I prefer to trust in my long hair to protect me. I whisper a quick prayer into my locker, asking for a little more strength. Someone else takes a moment of silence to steady his breathing.

The warm up is surprisingly pleasant with one exception: Sometimes, someone steps in a puddle of frost-covered water. It splashes everyone in the group, soaking their socks, their leggings, and their feet. That’s okay, though. We’re a team; twenty-odd bodies working as one being, one great machine.

We begin with four three-hundred-meter sprints on the NDSU track. As we round the corners on the track, the wind whips daggers at us, sandblasting our eyes with icy fractals. I normally don’t personify the weather, but it was filled with malice today. We couldn’t let it win, let our spirits be crushed under the weight of the meteoric war that we fought against the earth itself that day.

One of the coaches calls for a break. We take cover behind the metal bleachers, using them as a shield as we stretched and rested. Out of fury, we found peace. I feel a goofy grin spreading over my face. We’re half done with the workout. I keep moving. My shorts are for modesty, not protection; they won’t stop the cold from getting to my legs. There’s a silly, irreverent fun between us as we joke between ourselves. It’s days like today, those painful, horrible days that make us a family. We sweat together, work together, race together, and -hopefully- win together. The sound of our footfalls is like a heartbeat, shoes pounding the ground in syncrony.

Next on the docket: four, two-hundred-meter sprints. The third quarter is always the hardest for me, where I struggle to remember the start of the race and struggle to see the end. At this point, only the combined strength of the team can carry me through to the end.

Four, one-hundred-meter striders. The endgame. My pulse ticks up again in anticipation of being done. I struggle to keep my breathing and my form under control. Something wild inside of me just wants to run, to cut loose onto the track, to leave this workout with nothing unspent.

The team winds down as we make the trek back home. The cold seeps into our hands, our elbow joints, turning our ears crimson with its vicious bite. The stresses of the practice leave my guts tied in a knot. Tomorrow we’ll hurt, our bodies and legs cramping up hard as rocks. But tonight-tonight we dream of sweet winnings and ludicrous speed.