During the summer of 1974, anticipation for the fall cross country season was high. We’d done well the previous year in both the conference and district meet, and a core of seniors was returning to make it a fun and productive season.
But first there was August training to do. Those first two weeks of running were stultifying in the summer heat. I can also well recall the feel of a pair of dew-soaked adidas Italia running shoes on my feet. So the first two weeks of training passed and thanks to some guest appearances by runners from other schools at our practices, I was feeling strong going into the season.
In the swim
A few days before the actual start of school, my friend and teammate Rob Walker received a call from his cousin Anna, a gal that I had known before transferring from little Kaneland High School in the cornfields to St. Charles, a bit larger school on the outskirts of the Chicago suburbs. I always liked Anna. We were in confirmation class together in 8th grade. And even after my transfer to another school, we saw her annually at Christmas when the Walkers invited our family along with all their cousins over for Christmas Eve.
Seeking a little late summer fun before school started, Anna asked us to come out and swim at her pool that day. The invitation was too grand to resist. But neither Rob or I had a car that day, as our parents were working and our siblings were using the spare vehicles. So Rob said, “Let’s run out to Anna’s.” That was easily an eight-mile trip one way. But we set out with our goal in mind and arrived bathed in sweat and carrying our swimsuits in our hands. Then we dove into the bright, sparkling pool overlooking some cornfields in a hilly countryside.
Anna had invited a friend as well. I knew her well, as we’d been classmates out at Kaneland. She was one of those women that guys had teased for being flat-chested her freshman and sophomore year. But she’d since gained a healthy degree of revenge, since that was no longer the case. She was tan and lovely to boot, with sun-streaked hair and a bikini, like the imagined object of a Beach Boys song. And it was 1974, with swimsuits doing only what they needed to do.
So Rob and I sat playing cards with Anna and her friend all afternoon in the sunshine. We probably drank Cokes or somesuch, which was not an ideal training menu, but this was teenage stuff and we weren’t pounding beers, so what the hell? As the afternoon waned, Rob and I accepted a ride back to town from his aunt and arrived for cross country practice relaxed and mildly sunburned. The girls had been so pretty and fun it seemed like the day lasted forever.
A workout without pain
With eight miles in our legs in a run added to an early morning workout with the team, Rob and I worried that we’d be too exhausted to run well that evening. Instead we both ran like we were living in a dream.
See, there comes a point where a runner’s body falls into a groove that does not care any longer how far it is asked to go, or how fast. My body and mind were so calm from a day spent in the good company of the two girls that nothing bothered me at all. And I will never apologize for that. Rob and I exchanged high-fives after the workout and laughed that we’d never felt better before.
Years later I’ll see the sunlight in my wife’s hair or the tan on her legs and think, “Women are just great.” Together we rode a long workout on Saturday (Sue–80, Chris–60) and ran six miles together in the sunshine on Sunday morning. It’s true that we can’t be teenagers forever, nor would we likely want to be, but the summer sun and sweat and the feeling of companionship never needs to fade. And frankly, my wife looks great in her bikini. In fact, I’m buying her another for her August birthday.
And life goes on.