Here’s an assortment of images that struck me at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championship at Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. I’m working on some putting together some thoughts on my race, but until then have a peek at what it looked like to be there.
I went to Syracuse University, a basketball school that also played football and has a pretty decent journalism school. When those seasons inevitably ended without satisfaction, we turned our attention to the one sport we dominated– lacrosse. As far as I knew then, those were the only sports offered at Syracuse.
Apparently, I was wrong. So wrong, I didn’t even know my alma mater had won a national championship in another sport until I found the news on Runnersworld.com while searching for my own feature article on the very same sport: cross country. (Here’s my article, by the way. It’s called Cross Country Romance and it’s about my deep abiding love for the sport, which I rediscovered by running my first race since before I even enrolled at Syracuse 35 years ago!).
So my congratulations are slightly belated, but very much in order to coach Chris Fox and the Orange for topping #1 ranked Colorado, the legendary program immortalized in one of running’s great books, Running With the Buffaloes. I have that book within arm’s reach as I write this and am thrilled to know that the Boys of Syracuse could go head-to-head with Coach Wetmore’s squad and win one for homegrown New York state runners like me.
Here’s the Runners Times article on the historic victory, Syracuse’s first XC national championship in 64 years.
This year, I am among the favorites in my race, which is for men 40+. And by favorite, I mean favorite to finish last. Seriously. I’m not exaggerating. At last year’s Club Nats, in my hometown of Bethlehem, PA, I came in 513 out of 598, and of of the 85 guys I finished ahead of, only 17 were under 60. Runners over 60+ will be in a separate race this year, so if my fellow back-of-the-packer 50somethings don’t make the long trip across country to this race, I may be the 2015 Club Nats Mr. Irrelevant.
So why in the world would I plunk down $1,000 for a plane and hotel room to run somewhere around 50 minutes for the privilege of finishing last in a race?
Here’s why. Click on the link below to see my article in the September 2015 edition of Runners’ World. Hint: the article is called Cross Country Romance.
Yesterday was a perfect day for running the Philadelphia Marathon and a pretty darn good day for watching it, too. I spent the day chasing and pacing a couple friends who were running and had an especially fun time out on Kelly Drive with the signs that spectators made to cheer the runners and poke fun at the absurdity of running a marathon. Here’s a dozen and a deuce that caught my eye. (With apologies, please note I’m taking my Iphone this week for repair as part of the iSight Camera Replacement Program. Crisper photos to follow immediately thereafter).
My dad didn’t make it to Veteran’s Day this year. As you’ll see from the context of my eulogy below, he passed away last week. But Louis N. Cinquino left us all with something. Something I explain in my remarks below. If you look closely in the picture of his Army Company N (or any photograph, for that matter), you’ll find him– and it. If you can’t, then keep looking.
I have to say, that growing up I remember feeling a little bit like royalty. Like there was something special, something noble about our family.
I guess it never crossed my mind that royalty doesn’t live in a two-family wooden shingled house, the same one my parents moved into 67 years ago on the day they were married. Or that royalty doesn’t work as a tool-and-die maker and medical records librarian and take one vacation a year to your relatives’ house in New Jersey. Royalty doesn’t pack a brown paper bag lunch every day— and bring that same paper bag home every night to be used again tomorrow.
So why did I feel like royalty? Because I got to live with the king.
The king was a man who liked everyone he met and became a leader in every group or organization he was involved with. A man who did what was right and expected us to as well. A man who saw the good where others would overlook it, and appreciated the tiniest of blessings.
If he was a king, he was the King of the Little Things— the things that don’t get written about, except clumsily by adoring sons. The king of showing up for your kids’ sporting events. The king of volunteering to visit Veterans in the hospital on Christmas morning while your little prince and princess are impatiently waiting to open their haul of presents. The king of endless stories about Italy, the king of the tomatoes, the basil, the garlic. The king of waking up early to make breakfast and play with his grandchildren. The king of playing cards. The king of picking beans for a penny a pound. The king of cardoon.
In recent years, he became the king of waking up every day and dressing himself. The king of doing his exercises. The king of rubbing his wife’s back. The king of not complaining.
The king still had the warm handshake and his enormous machinist’s hands. The king still had the big smile. The king still could make you feel important whenever you were with him.
The puzzling thing I feel today is trying to understand how the King of The Little Things bequeathed to us such Big Things. And I’m not just talking about a garage full broken hand tools, bottles, ladders and scrap lumber. (Which we do have available at a good price.) What I’m talking about is how all of us— not just his family— are left with a huge piece of his immense heart, a massive dose of his good nature, his straight up goodness.
You don’t have to be his son or daughter to inherit his legacy. Just by being here today, you’ve already proven your birthright to the treasures he left behind —and keep in mind he didn’t just leave them TO us, he leaves them WITH us, IN us.
The greatest of these was love. And yet for my dad it was more than love— for he didn’t just love us abstractly, he cared for us. He didn’t just imagine his love, he lived it. He was a great man in all the little ways we remember — his gentle sweetness, his willingness to serve, his optimism and perseverance.
That’s what he’s given us— and what we ask of him to keep giving us now that he has moved into his new address.
In the past few days, I can’t help thinking there must be a lot of people in heaven right now getting the full Louie treatment— you know. He pulls up a chair with someone new that he meets, smiles, listens and asks questions, tells a few stories and listens some more until he finds what he is looking for— that connection, that love.
My cousin told me the other day that my Dad gave her some of the best advice she’d ever received. Something he told her years ago that she always remembered, something she still thinks of whenever she meets someone new. Something I want to leave with you today, something he left with us to carry forward.
Something that kept him going from his early days on the South Side of Batavia to World War II in the South Pacific, from the south block of Myrtle St to the southern shore of the Oatka Creek at the Village Green. Something he found in appreciation of all the people who cared for him when he was no longer able to care for us. Something that he sought and found everywhere, every day and embraced as the truest sign of God’s love— at home, at work, at church, at meetings, with his dearest friends and people he just met.
That something is that We ALL have something in common. It’s our job to find it.
Today, we don’t have to look far to find what we have in common: We love the king.
On behalf of my mom, Rita, my brothers Michael and Anthony and my sister Liz, we thank you beyond these humble words for being here today and for being a part of my Dad’s life. He will continue to live on in us whenever we are at our best.
UPDATED. Complete report now available! NASA claims these unaltered images, transmitted from the surface of Mars by the rover Curiosity, are ordinary rock formations. CNN theorized that the internet had lost its mind. But a closer examination has revealed another story. Judge for yourself these 11 Signs There is Running On Mars.
Despite mounting evidence, NASA refuses to confirm signs of running on Mars. NASA’s official positions is that the images transmitted from the surface of Mars by the rover Curiosity are nothing more than ordinary rock formations. But a closer examination of these photos by our research team has revealed quite another story. Judge for yourself these 11 Signs There is Running On Mars. More signs to follow shortly, pending NASA security clearance.
It’s not the trail. It’s not the road. Cross country racing is the middle way. Something else entirely. And it’s good.
I ran the 2014 USATF Cross Country Club National Championships at Lehigh University in December and made it a point to talk to as many runners as I could to try and find out why they were running a cross country race.
You can see from this picture why I ran: the snazzy uniform from my team, Lehigh Valley Road Runners, not to mention the excuse to buy bright orange spikes.
The runners I met at the meet were veterans of trail and road running who find cross country as either a safer alternative than rugged trail runs or as a refreshing break from the pounding of the road.
“There is a fear of the unknown. Of the unpredictability of cross country,” said a female elementary school teacher and member of Colonial Road Runners in Williamsburg, VA. “But I’ve been on trail runs and those are harder. I trip all the time on trail runs. This was all groomed and easier to run on,” said.
“Trail runs have more hazards and are more technical than cross country. Do I want to twist my ankle on a trail?” I hear from a member of the Atlanta Track Club. “At road races people are just running for faster times.”
“But this cross country race was different,” she explains. “I was going back and forth with a woman as we ran. And finally she just yelled over to me ‘Go get it,’ and we both took off. We were really going at it, but it was supportive. It was total fun. “
I also heard from Sasha Blum, a top 10 masters finisher (2013 Club Nats in Bend, OR) who found that same kind of competitive spirit, as well as blessed relief from the roads. Lord knows she needs it. When I heard her speak at a roundtable the night before the race, she was introduced as a mother of five under the age of 8.
“Cross country is much easier on my body than road racing is,” she said to the group. Yet, there’s nothing easy about the races. It was at cross meets where she found the racing atmosphere she craved. “I love training with other runners on my team, and the pure competition of the race. There’s nothing else like it.”
So now is the time for you to try a cross country race– and here are three options to getting signed up.
Pick up September 2015 issue of Runners World. In it, you’ll find a nationwide list of races that are coming up. You will also find my feature article “Cross Country Romance,” about my experience running the 2014 USATF National Club Cross Country Championships.
CLICK HERE for a list of events (primarily in the Northeast) pulled together by Essex Running. This also includes ultra and trail runs, so look closely at the race descriptions. Also, this fall’s race dates have not been put on the site yet, so you’ll have to pull up last year’s race info and dig around a little to find this year’s information. But come on, a little digging for dirt can yield gold.
USA Track and Field hosts the biggest “grown-up” cross country meet of the year. This year, Club Nats is being held in San Francisco on December 12. For details on the race and to register CLICK HERE.
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.
“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.