While by my own admission I fell pretty hard for running, the 'courtship' phase had more than it's fair share of arduous and exhausting moments. This 'romance' was spawned in a stiflingly hot and humid summer in Kansas.
Pre-season training for cross country was a veritable crucible of heat and humidity. While I had always been a relatively athletic kid, I had no idea what I was doing when I signed up to run.
The first 2-3 weeks of training were an exercise in pure survival. It's hard to imagine looking back on the 2-4 miles I logged just how destroyed I felt when my mom would pick me up after practice.
Each run was immediately followed by consumption of nearly a gallon of Gatorade, several bowls of Goldfish crackers, and a lengthy nap. At this stage of the game, the 'runner's high' was a mythical concept to me as all I really knew was soreness and fatigue.
At practice, I merely tried to hang on for dear life. I wasn't the fastest kid on the team, but I was determined to not be the slowest. My fragile ego couldn't handle being last, so I would put myself through hell to end up somewhere in the middle of the pack.
Presumably my body started to adapt to the act of generating 3-10 times my body weight per footstrike as soreness and fatigue gradually started to give way to something new and unfamiliar, a vague feeling of lucidity and peace.
Labored and ragged breathing became a bit smoother. My legs seemed to move with a bit more ease and perhaps even a modicum of grace.
The season arrived too soon for my taste, but remarkably I found myself running in stride with the varsity squad roughly where I'd been during the summer....in the middle of the pack. This was encouraging, but I had yet to experience an actual race.