The Magic of the Trails
A homeschooled 13-year-old’s perspective on running in the woods
Photo of the author, taken by John Sloan.
I still remember the morning that my mom woke me up for my first cross-country practice. A nervous knot formed in my stomach as we drove from our home on Old Stage Road in Southern Oregon to the nearby town of Gold Hill. The frosty morning slid by outside my window, but I hardly took notice.
When we pulled up next to Handy Middle School, the small school located in Gold Hill, Oregon, I sat there frozen in my seat until my mom coaxed me out. She nudged me toward a group of kids standing next to the playground and introduced me to Mrs. Harris, my new coach, as Halyn Gwaltney, a homeschooled kid who wanted to run cross-country.
Mrs. Harris welcomed me with open arms, then told me to join the others on a one-mile run. She then turned to my mom and asked if she would go with us. My mom agreed. On that run I realized that this was going to be a good season.
By the time that school started, our team had doubled to 16. Our practices consisted of two-mile runs, hill repeats, challenging core workouts and relays. It was often near 100 degrees in the afternoons, and Mrs. Harris would run us until our muscles were on fire, our throats dry, our lips parched. She didn’t ease up until we were drenched in sweat and ready to collapse. Only then would she tell us we could take a break—or, more like a quick catch your breath and get some water, before doing it all again. Mrs. Harris knew what she was doing, though; if we really wanted to do well in our meets and P.R. (which stands for Personal Record) we would have to push ourselves and dig deep. Really deep.