Being a cross country spectator is infectious |

Being a cross country spectator is infectious

Mike Schneiter
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Mike Schneiter

I had never seen my dad run before the day I toed the line of my first high school cross country race.

My parents were skeptical about my decision to participate, but it was my senior year and my wood shop teacher, who was the coach, had convinced me to give it a shot.

My mother, skeptical and frugal by necessity, made me run the first two weeks of practice in old basketball shoes before she took me to buy proper running shoes.

Growing up on a small Iowa farm, basketball was my sport, as it conflicted the least with the important and time-consuming work of the spring, summer and fall growing seasons. It took some convincing on my part to be given permission to ditch the jeans and gloves for a pair of shorts in August.

Running wasn’t something that our family did, nor was it common to our family’s experience. Once, years later, our neighbor called the house with concern because they thought something must be wrong as they had seen my dad running through the fields. Turned out it was me, running for fun, while home visiting.

I still get stopped regularly when I am home by people asking if I need help, assuming that my car is broken down or something is wrong.

But, on that warm, crisp fall day of my first meet, the starting gun went off and the excitement and energy of the moment consumed my dad, along with all of the other spectators, in a way that only happens in cross country.

In what other sport do the spectators get almost as much of a workout as the participants?

I don’t remember much about that first course or what time I ran or where I finished. What I do remember is my dad waving his arms frantically in the direction of the runner ahead of me, yelling at the top of his lungs an energetic cry of encouragement and quickly running to the next spot from which to view the race.

My mother was more subdued in her participation, but the moment had captured her as well and surely surprised them both.

My dad had never run before – not a community 5K, a casual jog after work or a run/walk fundraiser. Yet, on the ride home he spoke of running with the excitement of someone who had studied racing strategy for years. As a spectator, he was hooked.

My dad died two years ago in the midst of our high school cross country season and I often think back to those days of my dad as a spectator. When I was home with my mother after his death, I spent many days running the quiet back roads of my hometown, reminiscing about my dad and sometimes getting stopped by concerned, old ladies to see if I was OK.

Join in the excitement and energy, as a spectator or participant, at this Saturday’s Glenwood XC Invitational, held at the Colorado Mountain College-Spring Valley soccer fields. A middle school race starts at 9 a.m. and high school races start at 9:30. A citizens race, which serves as a fundraiser for the Demon XC team, is open to all and begins at 8:30.

Mike Schneiter is a Glenwood Springs High School teacher and coach, owner of Glenwood Climbing Guides and is a Brooks Inspire Daily athlete.

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