I learned this the hard way.

Yesterday was my son’s final high school cross country race for the season. I really wanted a great photo of his finish. I got it, but I also saw so many high school boys fly to the finish line and then collapse. Many get sick at the end. It’s not a pretty sight.

What I truly learned yesterday is that these high school athletes work so hard and sacrifice so much for each race. It’s not just about running. It’s a rigorous training schedule and commitment, team work, motivation, and supporting fellow runners at their school, as well as a strict and clean diet.

You can spot a high school cross country runner immediately. They are usually extremely lean and strong.I feel so lucky to have attended my son’s races. For one race in Northern Baltimore County, we were up at 5:30 am on a Saturday morning. I’m not going to lie, I was not happy about the early alarm, but the sunrise and the fog slowly lifting on the way to the race made it all worth it. The music in the car was perfect too. More importantly, the time alone with my teenage son was very special. Except for the music it was quiet. A comfortable quiet.

The beauty of cross country is that the courses are gorgeous. Many are tucked away in beautiful pockets of Baltimore County and the surrounding areas. What’s even more amazing is the environment at a cross country meet. There is excitement and nerves, but there is this amazing energy, peace and calm at the same time. Each school has their own tent with their name on it. Their backpacks and laptops are strewn about, water bottles and jackets and shoes are everywhere. They play their “get pumped” music and dance to warm up. They also jog a bit of the course to familiarize themselves if needed. There is not a feeling of aggressive competition at these events, but rather supportive comradery.

The runners line up at the start and once the siren goes; they’re off! By the time 25 minutes ticks by, the race is over for most of the runners. It’s quiet and then there’s a burst of cheers and photos at the finish. Everyone fist bumps, hugs and it’s off to watch the next race.What’s remarkable about cross country, is that though it is a team sport, it is also about competing with yourself mentally and physically.

I believe athletes and those in business have much in common:

You must stay focused and keep your eye on the “prize”

You must be well prepared

You must be persistent and persevere

You must have stamina

You must overcome failure to learn and then work harder, but never give up

As my Mom always says, “How bad do you want it?”