"To the line, Group 1. Ready? Go. Keep it steady. Hold that pace!"
Group 1 took off on their appointed task, leaving Group 2 on deck and Group 3 in the hole. I held stop watches in both hands, trying to time laps and rest periods for the twenty-some teenagers making their way around the track. Lap after lap, they started, stopped, and sucked down gallons of water on command. Their faces told the story.
After casual running throughout the summer, this practice was the first true test of so many things: fitness, speed, endurance, motivation, discipline, and of course, attitude. I tried to prepare them mentally for this difficult workout: a ladder run at tempo for 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1600, 1200, 800, and 400 meter distances. The rest periods were slim at 1, 2, 3, or 4 minutes between the various rungs. It was tough; I proved that in the surreal fog of the early morning hours prior to practice when I ran the workout alone. I had told the kids I would never ask them to do what I was unwilling to do. Hence, my own fast paced laps.
I was interested to see how they would respond. With the sun climbing higher in the sky and not a cloud to provide shade, the kids persisted. Each time they came to the line they brought with them determined faces despite fatigued muscles and labored breathing. No one complained. No one whined.
By the time the last runner crossed the line, they were exhausted. Yet, I could tell they were pleased. It was a tough workout and they had divided, conquered, and returned with honor.
I am proud to call them "my" team.
(Describing the August 17 pre-season workout and in honor of the 2010 Liberty Christian Academy Cross Country team.)