Monday, June 16, 2008

Running At Practice vs. Running Practice

A few weeks back, when I met up with some TnT colleagues to celebrate Scott's successful completion of the San Diego marathon, talk turned to plans for the Market Square day booth and race.

Dave mentioned he needed some help manning the booth, so I said I'd gladly offer an hour or two of my time to help spread the word about TnT.

"But you and Erin will be running practice," he said.

Running practice? Of course I'd be running at practice -- just like I do every Saturday morning.

"No, you'll be running practice," he explained. With Dave tied up with Market Square Day responsibilities and a scheduling conflict with Coach Jack's new job, they'd turn the team over to me and Erin.

Yikes. Immediately my mind turned to the 'what if's' -- What if something goes wrong? What if somebody gets hurt? Or lost? I think I told Coach Jack about five or six times that evening to be sure to let me know ahead of time exactly what needs to be done and what to do in the 'what if' situations.

Then there were the simple things. Would I remember where the turn-arounds were? Would I remember what stretches we do?

It probably didn't help that I've actually experienced one of those 'what if' situations when I fell during training last fall. Please don't let one of the runners come around the corner bleeding from the knees and face like I did, I said to myself.

Erin and I met about a hour before the team run to get a few miles in -- since, as mentors, our runs with the team are unpredictable. We never know if we'll get our distance in or whether we'll need to lend a hand elsewhere.

It was a great day for running -- sunny and not too hot. The team trickled into the school's parking lot and formed a circle, settling in to listen to some quick tips on fundraising.

As we listened, Coach Jack pulled in and quietly entered the circle next to me. He handed me a the check-in sheets and a binder, showing me where to find the emergency information. Oh, and he gave me a first aid kit. I crossed my fingers that none of it would be needed.

Coach Jack patted me on the shoulder, told me everything would be fine, and pulled away, leaving the team in my hands.

With the fundraising seminar completed, Erin and I rounded up the team for the warm-up lap and stretching. The team was relaxed -- they didn't seem to mind that Erin and I were in charge. We must have been portraying confidence that we didn't really have at the time.

We were worried about losing runners -- it was the first time the marathoners would be running the full six-mile loop. They wouldn't know where to make the turns.

We described, as best we could, where the turn-arounds were and where the turns were. (Granted, we almost sent the half-marathoners on an extra mile, but were quickly corrected by the marathoners who told us that the Coast Guard station is the same place they turned around for five miles last week.)

With the directions conveyed, we started the run. Erin and I talked about our strategy -- should we run ahead to the turn-around? Should we stop at the Old Mobil to make sure the marathons go the right way? (We both knew there was no way we'd keep up with Nicholas, so we quickly abandoned that idea.)

We trotted out of the school and onto South Street. Just a few steps in, Erin and I agreed to turn around and let the runners continue. We'd drive the loop to make sure we could keep track of all of the runners. (With everyone running a different paces and distances, it's hard to do that while running with the group. Plus, if something happened, we wanted to have a car readily available.)

As we drove by our teammates, we'd slow down and offer words of encouragement or a thumbs-up. We stopped at certain points to make sure the runners knew they were on track.

Everything seemed fine. And it was for the rest of the run.

As is usually the case, it was a lot of worrying for nothing. (I've probably taken years off of my life worrying away at things that did not need to be given a second thought.)

We eventually waited at the school for runners to return, clapping as they made their way down the homestretch. Everyone cheered for Vicky's small personal victory when she made it back to the school before the marathoner girls.

Eventually, everyone made it back safely. Almost everyone had run farther than they had ever run before. It's a nice feeling being able to share that with the team.

Being in charge wasn't so bad. A lot of worrying for nothing -- as usual. It gave me a new appreciation for Coach Jack, who seems to head up the team effortlessly.

Even though it wasn't so bad, I'm looking forward to the return of Coach Jack and Dave on Saturday -- and getting back to the normal routine.

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