Ladders

Standing in the dark getting changed into basketball shorts, a T-Shirt, and some of my dad’s old shoes I couldn’t help but wonder, “Am I really about to do this?”. I grabbed a water bottle and walked across the street to my friend Jackie’s house. It was chilly out and so, shivering a little from the cold and a little from anxiety, I knocked on Jackie’s door. It took her a moment to answer but then she answered and said “One second, wait in here, I’m almost finished.” And so there I was, scared out of my mind, yet at the same time curious to see what would happen.

We pulled up to our high school, Anoka High School, around 6:45am. I wasn’t really sure exactly what I had signed up for, or rather gotten talked into.
Jackie and I walked over to the field past the tennis courts on the school’s north side. Jackie went off to talk to the group of girls standing around and, naturally, I was then forced to walk over to the group of guys. We all, boys and girls alike, were dressed in pretty much the same attire. Basketball or running shorts, T-Shirts, and tennis shoes.

I walked up to the group of guys not knowing anyone and ended up just standing around awkwardly as I waited for the only thing I dreaded more than standing around awkwardly, the coaches to begin the first practice of the 2009 cross country season.

“Okay everyone, go run warm-up and we’ll meet you at the tennis courts for stretching and ballistics!” the head coach yelled out, of course causing my heart to leap about half-way up my throat. I had no idea what I was in for, but I was about to find out pretty quick.

We headed off to do our warm-up across the field, first heading up a hill, lucky me. By the time we hit the top of the hill and began taking a right turn at the crest, I was already feeling the fact that I was not fit, not even close.

Still breathing hard, I followed the group over to the far end of the tennis courts for stretching. So we did all sorts of strange stretches that I had never seen, heard of, or done in my life. After the stretches we walked over and did another strange routine I didn’t understand. The coaches called it “ballistics” it was a mix of exercises from walking on your toes to skipping with an exaggerated bound to sprints. Hoping that was the worst I was in for, the coaches brought us back to the field we started at and we soon began the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life, now that may sound cliché, but I’m not lying when I say it was hard for me.

We proceeded to start what the coach referred to as “ladders”, which meant nothing to me before we started but after the fact, the word ladder had quite a different meaning. Ladders, as I found out, are basically ladders of distance. You run a short distance, build up to the longest distance, and then back down to the shortest distance. By the third out of the seven intervals we did I thought I might pass out and, truth be told, by the time we completed the last interval I was sitting on the ground ready to.
I’m still not sure why I put myself through the torture of not only the pain, but also coming in last for some time until I gained some fitness. The strange thing about it is, even though it was the most difficult thing I’ve done, it has completely changed my life for the better. It’s a very humbling sport, running. It makes everything outside of running very trivial. It’s much easier to write an essay, for example, than to run ladders.





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