What’s Under Your Jersey?

One story stands out when I recall my weekend at the 2014 USATF Cross Country Club National Championships (See Runner’s World, September 2015 issue for my feature article on the race, my first cross country race since high school). The story was less about running, and more about rewriting the personal stories that can haunt us.

I met Rich, a CPA who runs for a club in South Jersey, at the rowdy, drunken after-party that the local hosts of the USATF event generously threw to celebrate the run and announce the awards. Booty was slapped, pots were stirred and kegs were killed in the making of this party.

But when I approached him, Rich was looking very content to be standing off by himself, sipping a drink and taking it all in. It turns out that, like me, Club Nats was Wright’s first cross country race as a “grown up”.   His last race was during senior year of college at Glassboro State, where he had left the sport heavy with disappointment.

“Oh, did you have a bad race?,” I asked, thinking may have been his own kind of Mulligan Mile.

Yes, I did still (kind of) fit into my high school’s 1977 cross country jersey when I was training for my Mulligan Mile in 2012.

“No. I had a great race. A fantastic race. Best I had ever run,” he said to my surprise.

Rich recalled how proud he was of the race he had run at regionals at Kutztown University, roughly a marathon’s distance from the Lehigh course where we had run on this day. Even better, so did three of his teammates. In a track relay, that’s enough.

But not in cross country.

“The fifth guy,” he smiled wistfully. “It just wasn’t his day. It was terrible. We didn’t make it. I was crushed. I literally took off my spikes that day and hung them up on a hook. Never ran another cross country race.”

But with this year’s race so close to home, Rich knew what he had to do. He actually dug out his old college jersey, and slid it under his running club’s team shirt and set out to run that bad race right out of his memory. What’s more, he was in touch with several of his college teammates, who did the same thing, representing other running clubs.  Under their respective jerseys beat the true hearts of cross country runners.

“We were all so pumped up about finally doing another race. It was fantastic. “I loved everything about it. Every little bit of it,” he says of the race. “The spikes, the start. The uniform. Everything.”

Look for the September issue on newsstands now and arriving in subscribers’ mailboxes.  An online version of the article will be available in a few weeks, so subscribe to TakingMulligans.com and you will be notified when this occurs.

This year, the Club Nats event is being held in San Francisco on December 12.  For details on the race and to register, click here.


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