Memories make hills higher and runs longerIt’s the first official weekend of spring, and that means we’re about to start South Dakota’s real high-school sports season — track and field. When I was competing for Chamberlain High School half a century ago, we’d finish the basketball season, take a week or so off — no idea why, that’s just the way things went — and then we’d report for track. On the first day of the season, sometimes the coaches would start things out by seeing just what sort of physical condition we were in.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
It’s the first official weekend of spring, and that means we’re about to start South Dakota’s real high-school sports season — track and field.
When I was competing for Chamberlain High School half a century ago, we’d finish the basketball season, take a week or so off — no idea why, that’s just the way things went — and then we’d report for track. On the first day of the season, sometimes the coaches would start things out by seeing just what sort of physical condition we were in. They’d do that by having us run from the armory (which remains where it was, even if the high school that used to be its neighbor now sits way up on the east bluff overlooking the river) to the drive-in theater and back.
The interstate highway system didn’t exist in those days. Old Highway 16 came down the bluffs from the east and made a big, sweeping turn to roll through the main part of down and off across the old bridge toward Oacoma. That was the route we took to run to the drive-in theater, which was located at the top of the east bluff across the road from the current turn to the high school, the hospital and the cemetery.
I always thought I finished basketball in pretty good shape, but the run up the hill took everything I had. It also took forever, although it seems like everyone on the team got back to the armory before sunset. We were winded and sore-legged and ready to give up track forever, but we made it back.
The best thing about finishing that run was knowing I wouldn’t have to do it again that season. Not even the distance runners had to run the hill again, as far as I know. Quarter-milers like me did it once and then spent most of the rest of our practices running 220s and 660s. The notion was that under-distance and over-distance workouts would build both speed and endurance, so when we actually ran 440 yards in a meet, we’d be able to start faster and finish stronger. I suppose it worked, but every time I ran that race, the only thing I thought about during the last 50 yards or so was whether I’d fall on my face before or after I crossed the finish line.
I never did either. That seemed to prove my dad’s oft-repeated advice that “the things you spend your time worry about generally don’t happen, so why waste your time worrying about them.”
I told him once that if that were true, then I was taking precautions by worrying about outlandish things, because then they wouldn’t happen, which meant people really ought to spent a lot more time worrying about them if they wanted to avoid them. He looked at me for a minute and then, without saying a word, slowly shook his head as thought I were the one not making sense. I was the one taking his advice to its obvious conclusion.
When I think of those runs to the drive-in and back, I still have an image of a bunch of marathon runners plodding up Heartbreak Hill or something. Truth is, it wasn’t such a very tough run by today’s standards.
I recall a few years ago when my granddaughter Frankie went out for a Sunday afternoon run early in the cross-country season. We took that gravel road that runs up the hill north of Oacoma and dropped her and her mom off about eight miles from town. They ran back together. Sure, they were tired when they reached town, but they looked a lot better than most of the CHS tracksters did in 1962 after the first day of workouts. Had the coaches taken me and the other guys that far out of town and dropped us, we’d have sat by the side of the road until a truck or pickup came by. If nobody would have stopped, we’d have had one of the team members lie on the shoulder faking an injury. I could see several guys on the team doing that.
What I can’t see them doing is running all the way back to town.