It’s sacred bliss to me, this whisper of wind in my ear while I run down a trail.
I wish I could tell all 1600 of the potential athletes passing by me in the hallways what it feels like. If I could bottle it, I would. Sell it like the secret sauce it is, the fabled runner’s high and the endorphins dripping fire into my heart and life into my brain.
If only they knew the potential I can see trapped inside every single one of them. Sometimes it’s waiting like an animal to be released, a raw hunger exploding onto the surface of the track or the trail or the road. Sometimes it’s quietly humming in the background -needing to be coaxed out with soft words and a gentle hand.
It’s not just speed bristling beneath their skin. It’s a yearning to be seen. Timid and shy at the beginning, they bloom like spring flowers after a rainstorm – each season growing a little taller, a little bolder, a little stronger.
Daring – you can see it in their eyes when they talk about the season, their dreams, hopes, aspirations, other runners they want to spar with, chase down, beat.
Hungry – you can see it in their eyes when they push their way up to the line, whole bodies tensing, mind rattling, the absolute stillness before the gun fires and their energy bursts onto the pavement, grass, trail, track.
Heartfelt – you can see it when they slap each other on the back, give one another a hi-five, cheer on a rival, wince when they lose and smile when they win, love, fire, hope.
You see, I have a different version of the boys of fall. My boys of fall don’t get their praises sung on Friday nights, they are the unsung heroes. One without helmets and pads and raw muscle and turf fields and pom-pom carrying cheerleaders.
Instead they are ones of quiet labor, a bit of shirtless sweat mixed with the atrocious color patterns of far too short split shorts, just themselves and the trail, a pair of shoes, the tick of a watch and no one to see the miles they leave behind. Still they have equally clear eyes, full hearts and can’t lose.
My girls are wild ones, like the lyrics of the song – love her, but leave her wild. They are brave and sweet, strong and kind. Their laughter paints the wind and they run their miles well. They stand by each other even during the toughest troubles, when whiffs of smoke bring back bad memories. They are each other’s safe place in the most tempestuous of storms and never fail to cheer one another on.
All my memories of high school are on the trails – friendships birthed, teenage love affairs tangled and embryonic dreams churning, always churning. Life was simpler then. All I cared about was a faster time and a good season. Possibilities seemed endless. Sometimes this is all I hope for them – endless possibilities – these fresh young faces ready to start anew.
Clear eyes. Full hearts. Fast miles.
Let’s run like Vikings.