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Cross-country's Not For Me

My playing days are well behind me. It is not a loss that keeps me up a night but I did find myself casting back to them as I stared out of the window during that cold snap at the end of February. It was snowing and snow can make the roughest old park or rundown street look a little prettier and I found myself wondering how the patch of green I was currently viewing would be to play on.

Discounting the fact there was a dog bouncing up and down through the fresh snow and all that that may mean, I could not recall ever playing football in these conditions. That was a surprise. I had been a fairly committed park player and could remember turning on the style during the cold while tramping across frosty grass and in rain so hard you could barely see through it. There were even very rare occasions when games arrived on the two or three super-hot days of summer. I always had a bottle behind the goal so I turned up and got on with it. But snow?

Eventually I reached my school days and the wide open games fields of my youth. At my school we alternated between football, rugby and hockey but the only constant through the deepest winter months was cross-country running which I almost always managed to avoid. That may sound like an idle boast but I mean it. I’m fairly sure that in five years I only did the route (a circuit of the games fields themselves) once. It is hard to remember now how I managed that yet the variety of and quality of excuses I must have employed were surely a foreshadowing of my later career as a blogger.

I never ‘got’ cross-country. It’s just running. I can do that and, even at that point in my life, had been for many years so I didn’t feel the need to practice. Also, it was barely a race. Naturally some kids were better than others but I don’t think I was the only one that thought its main purpose was to allow the teachers to disappear for a cup of tea. Of course I was young and innocent then so it may have been a cup of tea or it may have been something else – who knows – I wasn’t for a pointless slog over frozen ground for the best part of a morning.

I am pretty sure we didn’t play any of the field sports in the snow. Perhaps at times we started a game and snow began to fall but, if anything settled, it would be nothing like what I could see from my window. Post school in my park playing days the various groups I hooked up with convened mostly outside of the professional season. There was some overlap but it was a spring, summer and early autumn hobby for us. That was certainly by choice but now I find myself without a memory that I feel I should have and, if I’m honest, actually desire.

I don’t regret dodging cross-country but I wish I had played football in the snow. We’ll have to see how I feel when winter rolls around again but I may even dig out my boots for one last run-out. No doubt I will be rusty but it’s an experience I’d like and the encore football probably deserves.

Midfield General (ret.)

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