The early years of cross-country had no real allure from the outside. The team sucked, you had the hand me downs from the track team, and you actually had to run. It wasn't about the training then, it was about the racing. Some people ran so hard they had the dry heaves at the finish. Sometimes you would get this saliva like glue you couldn't spit hard enough to get rid of. Some kids just let it wrap around their face or run down their shirt. For me I would get powerfully nervous at school before races. Not as much about who your were racing, but because of the pain you had to endure. Remember, no tactics were taught or learned. You ran to the front as long as you could and held on.
Dual meets were better for me. I could wrap my tiny little mind around racing one schools best kids. When you arrived at the course it was usually the local golf course or on the high school grounds. Our high schools were in the country so there was plenty of land to construct 3 mile lay outs. You walked most of the course so you had an idea where you had to go. While the other schools planned strategy ot tactics we just kind of goofed off. It wasn't long before you wised up because there isn't anyone telling you where to go. Heck, there was at least one time we had to send out a search party to go find a kid. One thing was certain, somebody was going off course every meet.
Late summer and early fall in the north was unpredictable weather wise. Yes, all the combos you can dream of became reality. Look at old cross pictures. Guys wearing tossle caps, white t-shirts under tank top, a pair of white socks for gloves...and spikes. We wore the sprinter spikes used by the track team. Think about that, is it still that way today? What kid didn't love screwing in new spikes? Basically there was a box with recycled spikes and you picked out the best ones. You stretched a bit, ran some sprints and then lined up to hear the beautiful sound of the starters gun crack.
A dual meet might have 30 kids tearing across a piece of ground. It was almost a true sprint. The adrenaline you had poured into your system was finally being released. It would take about a half mile for the little packs to appear. The idea was to get to the next pack ahead of you. This process broke the packs down to a string of runners by half way. For the most part it stayed this way until about a quarter mile to go (at least for our team) and you tried to pass as many guys as you could over the last fairway which always seemed uphill. On a good day you could catch several guys and grab your stick or card and collapse on the ground. I knew right then that no other sport in my high school was exacting as much effort as we were.