Lighting The Way From Behind: A Lesson For Coaches And Parents

Photo Credit: WalkJogRun

When I was in high school, I was involved in forensics in addition to cross country and track. Forensics tournaments are in the winter, which means short daylight hours. We often left for forensics tournaments early in the morning when it was still dark, and then got home after dark. My family lived in the country with no sidewalks or streetlights.

One winter Friday night my junior year, I was grumbling that I probably wouldn't be able to run the next day due to a forensics tournament. We'd had a lot of snow and running on icy, snowy roads in the pitch dark probably wasn't my best play. I complained that because my two biggest rivals at the state meet both lived in larger cities where they had streetlights, sidewalks, and plowed roads, they were going to be able to run on a day that I likely wasn't. I didn't like the thought of them getting that edge on me, even for one day.

My dad casually offered to follow me in the pickup after I got home from the forensics tournament so I could run in the headlights. I happily took him up on his offer and as soon as I got home the next day I changed my clothes and headed out to run. Dad idled along behind me with the emergency flashers on, allowing me to run in the headlights to see where I was going.

It's funny the tiny details that sometimes remain vivid decades later from an event that didn't seem that significant at the time. Even now, nearly 40 years later, I can still hear the crunch of snow beneath my feet, feel my breath freezing on my face mask and hear the old Ford pickup idling behind me.

We repeated this ritual numerous times over the next couple of years while I was in high school whenever I was late getting home from forensics tournaments or some other obligation in the winter. I still have my old training diaries where I noted that Dad followed me in the pickup while I ran in the headlights.

After high school, I went on to college running and never really thought much more about it.

That is, until 2008.