Over the long weekend, I was fortunate to be able to meet up with my high school cross country coach, Mrs. Long, for a run. She coached Brandi, Amanda and I, and there is no doubt that she played a huge role in where I am today both in my running career and overall outlook on life. She has always inspired me, but with two young boys, many major changes in her personal life over the past year and a 3:14 marathon in April, I can’t help but be in awe of her strength and perseverance.
As I sat stretching after our 10 mile run (something I did NOT learn from the woman who was quite okay with not being able to touch her toes) , I started thinking about all the advice Mrs. Long gave me over the 4 years as my coach and 9 years as my friend.
You call that a hill?
Mrs. Long had a knack for nonchalantly leading us on the hilliest runs in town. As we grumbled about the terrain, she’d wave them away with her hand and say, “You call that a hill? That’s just a little speed bump.” On especially bad (or steep) days when we’d all be complaining at the bottom of a hill we were running repeats up and begging her to cut our workout down, she’d blatantly ignore us and cheerfully yell “Readyyy, go!” over the noise. Bottom line? Your legs aren’t really going to fall off, so just get it done.
Boys are bad.
This was one of Mrs. Long’s favorite sayings (mostly because our high school boys team was known to pull pranks like launching surprise water balloon attacks on the girls team or putting a snake in Mrs. Long’s car). There was nothing truly sexist about it; she was just being protective of her high school girls and wanted us to focus on school and running–what coach wouldn’t?! The thought has always been in the back of my mind though that if I’m going to be with someone, I better be darn sure that he’d pass Mrs. Long’s test and prove her theory wrong!
For the first time in school history, the cross country team made it to the regional meet as a team. It was a huge accomplishment, but I remember Mrs. Long relating it to a video game: “You know when you work really hard in Super Mario and beat a level and then you get a bonus round? That’s sort of what this is; like a super bonus round you weren’t expecting.” I think back to this when I reach and exceed a goal; it’s great to enjoy your accomplishments but don’t put them up on a pedestal because you’re going to have to work hard again to beat the next level.
I love that no matter how many months pass, I can always call up Mrs. Long for a run when I’m in town and we pick up right where we left off. Even though she hasn’t coached me for over 5 years, there is no doubt that Mrs. Long will always be my coach.