Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you, first and foremost, for the swag—I mean, I’ve been hyping up these (detachable pom pom, might I add) neon hats excessively, and yet they did not disappoint. Thank you also for the extravagant exhibitions of Nike might—the columns, the painted van (Oregon license plate, nice touch), the start and finish, and oh my goodness, that course (*swoon*). I understand now why LaVern Gibson is fit for champions and Terre Haute, Indiana is Cross Country Town, USA. Truly, yours is a victory, and my pilgrimage (albeit capitalistic) was nothing less than the epitome of self-fulfillment.
Upon reflection, though, thank you for more.
Thank you for a car ride’s deep meaningful conversations, Red (Taylor’s Version), and rest, a bell jar’s chilling nihility warmed by companionable silence. Thanks—and thanks again—for my dear burrito babies, this temporary satiation of my never-ending runner’s hunger. Thank you for distant connections (absence makes the heart grow fonder, or so they say), and thank you for loved ones near, hot cocoa in a homey lobby away from home. Thank you for a desolate, post-apocalyptic midwestern landscape breathed new vitality by the optimistic “Just Do It” youth. After running through snow and sleet, wind and mud have never seemed more exhilaratingly possible. Thank you for the Heat Waves beat drop the moment we flew downhill, surely intentional on your part. For some nights to come, all I will think about is you. Thank you, too, for hazy showers, for endless carbs, for tours of Italy Nonna style (and, of course, friends who fork-feed you). Thank you for a community in which I can sincerely appreciate All Too Well: The Short Film only somewhat misty eyed. And, hey, thank you for the lively board games, the comforting Disney movies, and the overwhelming sense of security as I surrender myself to sweet sleep.
Thank you, furthermore, for early morning bathroom study sessions followed by the ultimate breakfast—peanut butter toast, please! And thank you for the cowbells, because seriously, who in their right mind hasn’t experienced a serotonin boost from a simple cowbell. Thanks for the chill van time, the team dad time—let it be known that I have never been so proud of myself as when I successfully closed that overflowing trunk. Fatherhood triumph! And, okay, fine—thank you for the race itself. Thank you for this last opportunity to rewrite my high school cross country narrative and establish my senior legacy, not just as a competitor, but as a teammate. Thank you for the chance to be silly and spontaneous as a Shake City Snake (hiss?); I have freed unadulterated joy for running from past pressure and expectations once again. Thank you for a final podium finish with my family, somehow more meaningful by surprise. And thank you for the nostalgic memory tree (you know the one), the ability to launch my well-worn running shoes onto a branch already supporting countless others—thus joining my season with that of the collective—and at the end of the day, walk away from it all, finally content.
In other words, thank you for the closure. Dear NXR, I thank you, thank you, thank you.