It’s an essential aspect of any sport.
For the cross country team, it’s their sport.
A group of about 20 runners will leave the high school campus nearly every afternoon for long-distance workouts, building up stamina and speed for their 3.1-mile races.
“The kids get bored just staying on school grounds,” Mules coach Beth Lewis-Muse said. “You can’t run just a big loop here.”
Lewis-Muse said her runners are taught to be aware and defensive when it comes to road running and not assume a car is going to stop or stay in their lane.
“We teach the runners they should run in such a way they should see the driver’s eyes,” she added.
To help the public be aware that runners are doing a road workout, the program will have signs out cautioning drivers.
Parents picking up their children from Oak Grove Elementary should especially be aware that the Mules are starting their runs at about the time as school is letting out, Lewis-Muse said.
While there have been no incidents during team workouts that Lewis-Muse can recall in her tenure, it’s always a good reminder for drivers to be aware.
While there are some great running trails in area parks and along Shelby Road, there are going to be places where runners and vehicles will take up the same space. Distracted driving could cost an athlete their hard work put in for a season or worse.
And it’s not just high school athletes.
The number of people in the United States registering for road races in 2018 was 18.1 million and 60% of those runners were women, according to a study by Running USA.
Many of those athletes groaning about running and even some of those kids in gym class who dread it will one day turn to running.
That was once me, until after getting cut as a freshman from the baseball team the track coach tracked me down to run the half mile. That led to cross country.
During one of many long road workouts on busy suburban streets, a teammate was leading us through an intersection when a car making a right turn didn’t yield. The lead runner ended up on top of the car’s hood, rolled off and kept running.
It should be noted he had a high tolerance for pain. After stepping in a hole during a race, he ran a mile on what turned out to be a broken leg until a coach stopped him.
Said the coach, “I knew he was hurt because Rosener passed him.”