An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Sally Revere '79, running program head

Cross-country races depend on mental toughness and the ability to focus on a painful task for a sustained period of time (between 15 and 30 minutes); they are based on 40 percent physical training and 60 percent mental capacity to endure and persevere. As we train, our team works hard to galvanize themselves as a group, to physically learn to run fast, and to focus on common mental goals. Developing a common mental toughness and mind-set is one of the most important things we do in cross country. Enter "word of the week" or WOW. The weekly word carries clout, and seems to fill the runners' brains like a mantra, a touchstone they all can relate to, albeit in myriad ways.

Two weeks ago the WOW was Gumby. Yes, the green claymation figure from the early 1950's given a second chance in the 1980's by Eddie Murphy in Saturday Night Live. We used Gumby to explain about physical flexibility and mental adaptability. Flexibility to become stronger and avoid injuries. Adaptability as it pertains to mental resiliency: the ability to fall and get up during a race, the mechanism that allows a runner to race in a different spot on the team, or to try new race techniques even if foreign and anxiety-provoking.This week the word is Tribe (the technical term for a herd of goats). We spoke about running in packs, the strength of working together, encouraging each other onwards, and how to pass other teams with conviction. We used Tribe to show what great hill climbers look like and taught how hill techniques work specifically on our courses – both uphill and down.

WOW is a single word that can have varied interpretations but it unifies us as a group and allows the runners to focus and define their week and races. It helps sets goals and gives them a mental anchor when they are out there suffering.Whether goofy- (hibachi) or intense- (phalanx) sounding, Word of the Week helps set a tone that allows a single-minded purpose and a team-wide determination. As important as 1200-meter interval repeats are to the success of our races, WOW plays a significant role in the development of our runners as competitive athletes and bonded teammates.