By Max Lemmon
Anyone who has ever been late for a class and has to sprint across the Pinewood campus knows that running is tough. You arrive to class red-faced, sweaty, panting, and desperately hoping that you will not be marked as tardy. It is safe to say that the 200-meter dash from room one to room 24 is not the most enjoyable, and that if you could avoid it, you would. No one would ever dedicate their time to that sort of thing, right?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the sport of cross country. Take that small run you made across campus, and multiply that by about 30. Add in brutally steep hills, a bunch of other runners, some uncomfortably tiny shorts, and a ton of dust in the air, and you have got cross country. Sounds like torture, right? To most it does, but not to senior Carter Brady, who has served as the co-captain of the cross country team since sophomore year.
He is known around campus as an extremely hard worker, leader, and very kind and personable young man, which makes him the perfect person to interview about just what it takes to be a cross country runner, especially as my co-captain this season.
First, when asked what initially got him into the sport, he spoke about his father, who is an avid marathon runner. From a young age, Brady was exposed to running and developed a passion for it.
“My family would always go watch [my dad] finish, and he sort of passed that love down to me,” Brady said.
On the weekend mornings, Brady and his father would run miles around a track near their house, steadily improving his mile times.
“As I have improved over the years, my dad has always been there at every step,” Brady said.
Brady’s initial love for running came from inspiration from his father, but what kept him coming back every year since fifth grade? He claims that it is the team aspect of the sport.
“Your team is there to encourage you and cheer you on. Hearing your team cheer for you does so much for your performance.They are the ones that have your back and make sure you perform your best in races. During practice, you push each other to increase the pace, pushing everyone to work harder,” Brady said.
He also cites self-improvement as a big reason why he keeps coming back. Cross country constantly pushes you to move faster, run harder, and you are in a constant mode of improvement, which Brady values immensely, he noted.
“In cross country, you only have one stat: your time, which you can see rise and fall based on how hard you work. Plus, it is always fun to smoke some fools in the last 300 yards of race.”
Brady also mentioned how running cross country has turned him into a tougher person.
“The sport itself…all boils down to endurance. You could run a four minute mile, and you could be awful at cross country. No matter how fast you are, it’s about your stamina and how far you are willing to push yourself… In general it definitely builds willpower, stamina, toughness, and a general desire to succeed and improve… You can clearly see your numbers, go up and down, and it gives you a will to improve that definitely will translate to other parts of life.”
Next, I asked him how he prepared himself mentally for a race, since it is such a physically and mentally taxing endeavor. He talked about how he sets two goals for himself, one attainable and one reaching goal that he will really have to push for.
“Having a goal in mind is really important, since it gives you an objective to strive for, which motivates you to push yourself.”
I then asked Brady how he stays focused during a race, since he cannot exactly tell how well he is doing until the end of the race when he sees his time. According to him, it is important to take the race in increments, with time in between the beginning and end of the race that you need to account for.
“I try to plan a strategy for the next half mile, accounting for what happens during that part of the race, and how I need to pace myself… I also focus on pacing myself off of other runners who I am trying to keep up with or pass, especially towards the end, when I speed up… A lot of it is thinking on my feet, strategy-wise.”
Given that this is Brady’s last year, I asked him what he would miss about the team, since it has been such a big part of his life. He said that while he will continue to run, whether it be competitively or not, he will always miss running with his friends.
“I will miss getting to run with people who I get to make close bonds with, complain about runs with, achieve goals with, race with and fight through pain with. I will always miss pushing myself with people and celebrating our accomplishments with each other, over one too many Double Stuf Oreos.”
Finally, I asked him who he would recommend the sport to, since it is obviously not for everyone. He says that it is not a sport for the faint-hearted, and requires a lot of discipline and effort, and for those who are seeking self-improvement.
“Cross country is a sport for anyone who wants to improve. As much as winning races and placing high is gratifying, at the end of the day, the sport is about you and your time, and what it demonstrates about your level of effort and discipline… It is not for those who are not willing to put in a lot of effort. You run mile after mile, only to whittle down your time by, say, three seconds. That is the point of cross country, put in a whole lot of effort to improve a tiny bit, and, over time, watch the gains stack up and make a huge difference.”
Brady has been a big part of the Pinewood cross country team for a very long time, consistently demonstrating discipline and willingness to push his own limits, even when others may not want to (that other person being me). He has driven everyone around him to be a better person on and off the trail, and on behalf of the whole Cross Country team and the school itself, we will miss you. Thank you for being an example to us all.