The blood, sweat, and tears of the last eight weeks of my life culminated (okay, so there was no blood, but there were sweat and tears) when international schools from all over the island met at the American School of Taichung for the cross country meet yesterday. Notice the use of the article “the” in the previous sentence. Since sports here are culturally very low on the priority list, we were only able to have this one meet during our “season”. In anticipating this day, I felt a blend of excitement for teaching kids to do something that I love and anxiety that I would be discovered as a fraud of a coach who hasn’t the slightest clue what I was doing. Waking up far too early on a rainy Saturday morning, we got ready to face the day.
We met our kids at 5:15 a.m. and headed to meet up with another international school in Taipei to make the two and a half hour journey south to the city of Taichung. We arrived at AST just in time to take the students to walk their course. It must be noted that AST, being situated in the mountains, has a beautiful campus. However, being situated in the mountains, the hilly trail was more than a little intimidating for those of us who had been training in the flat city of Taipei. But, without enough time to get nervous, it was time for the girls’ race to start. Our girls held their own with our top runner finishing seventh overall and fourth in her age group.
Shortly after all the girls had crossed the finish line, the boys lined up to start their race. We were counting on one of our boys to do really well and were crossing our fingers that he might place. We watched as the first place boy came screaming across the finish line (quite literally), then the second, and the third. Soon thereafter, our top runner crossed the line placing fifth. We were a little disappointed that he wasn’t in the top three but proud that he did as well as he did. However, at the awards ceremony, Chris and I began to notice that they weren’t giving awards just to the top three boys and top three girls. Instead, they were dividing them by grade level. As soon as we realized this, we knew that our guy had a chance. Sure enough, when first place for ninth grade boys was announced, they called his name. He was so shocked that when he went up to the awards table, he told them that it must be a mistake. We assured him that it wasn’t and he proudly accepted his medal.
Now, I have to mention some of the behind the scenes drama that was going on while the students were running. After the student races, there was going to be a “Masters” race in which all of the coaches could compete. I was excited about this race, but the intimidation factor began to rise quickly as I heard all of the other coaches discussing which triathlons they had participated in in recent weeks. To add to my angst about my abilities as a runner and as a coach, one of the other coaches began to give me a hard time about my students. Apparently, it was shocking that I would allow my students to run with iPods. I’m still not quite sure why. Also, for some reason, one of our runners failed to eat breakfast and I got chastised for that as well. Anyway, with her chiseled legs and racing tank top tan lines, this coach quickly became an ominous competitor in my eyes.
Finally, it was time for our race to start. The runners took off speedily and I started to maneuver my way in front of my nemesis. Just being a 5K, the race went by rather quickly and I finished sixth overall and first for the women (though there were only four of us). But, if I can toot my own horn for a second, I totally smoked Ms. Chiseled Legs. I was blissfully chatting away with other runners sipping on water when she came huffing across the finish line. I gloated on the inside – and now on the outside, to you. Thanks for indulging me.
With two first place medals and no one coming in last, I was pleased with how we represented ourselves. However, I will admit that I am not sad that it will be another year before I have to train kids athletically again. I don’t think it is time to quit my day job just yet.