“Ride of Shame”

It was a hot Sunday morning in mid-August. I found myself running solo, parallel to the Brazos River. I still had a few miles to go before I made it back to campus. I was past the point of fatigue. My tank was empty and my legs felt like cinder blocks. This was my first long run since arriving on campus in Waco. “What have I done?”  was my initial thought. Long distance running gives you plenty of time to sort through your thoughts – for better or worse. I was trying to push the negativity out of my mind; I knew it wasn’t doing me any good.

As recent as a week ago I was more than gung-ho to start practicing with the team. Now all I wanted to do was pick up my marbles and go home. This group of girls was more than I had bargained for!

This all started about two hours previously when the entire team met at the SLC (Student Life Center, pronounced “slick”).  It was our first official team practice and the guys cross country team was there as well. It was more than obvious who the freshmen were, on both teams. We stood in little circles and had on riff-raff running gear. Sophomores and older were all wearing some form of Baylor issued gear. You could almost tell the age of various runners by their LACK of clothing. I say that tongue in cheek, but in all honesty, most of the older girls wore nothing more than a sports bra and “hot pants”, or as one of

Indoor Track

my friends called them, “sausage casings” 🤣. The older guys wore SHORT shirts and went topless. I looked Amish wearing traditional running shorts and a tank top.

Before we hit the ground running there was a short team pow-wow about the day’s objective. Stay within yourself for the first half of the 13-15 mile run, and pick it up and show off your summer’s work on the way back to campus. I had no clue what I was in for, but did my best to hold my own.

From the start, Bedeezy, Mama D and Nikki left us in their dust. A large group of us hung together on the Bear Trail  before we crossed the railroad tracks, near where the famous Magnolia Market Silos now stand.

As we passed the Hilton, one of the upperclassmen ducked inside to pee. IDK how she didn’t feel awkward literally running into one of town’s nicer hotels, wearing nothing but hot pants and a sports bra?! It was here that our group started to thin out. I was left running beside two other freshmen as we approached Cameron Park.

Cameron Park

Still one of my favorite places to run, of all the places I have visited.

It wasn’t too long before I heard footsteps approaching. I couldn’t believe model girl (that’s what I called her because she actually modeled during the summers) had already caught us. “Keep it up, bitches!”, and just like that she was gone, leaving us in her wake.

Fast forward several miles to the exit of the lower trails and I thought I had won the lottery when I saw some athletic trainers set up with water and Gatorade for us. I drank more than enough; as we started back up I could feel the liquid sloshing in my stomach. I was far from acclimated to the Texas heat and hadn’t hydrated properly prior to showing up for practice. Trying to make up for it, I ended up causing more harm than good, in the way of GI distress. You live and learn.

We ran about another mile before turning around to head back to campus. At this point, normally I would be thinking, “Awesome, over halfway finished.” This time, it was more like, “There is no way…”

Myself and two teammates had quit conversing long ago. We were simply too tired to run and chit chat. Don’t get me wrong though, misery loves company and I was grateful to commiserate together.

By the time we exited the lower trails on our return I was certain Coach H. would have sent a search party out for us. Not really, but I did reckon some of the “big girls” (older and faster) were close to, if not already finished.

We had lost a teammate. She decreased her pace and said not to worry; carry on without her. Then there were two. Myself and Big Al were nearing the Hilton when all of a sudden, I mean literally in the blink of an eye, I needed a toilet and STAT! When I say “toilet” that is a polite way to insinuate I had to take a dump, not just urinate.

If I ran another step I was more than certain fecal matter was going to run down my leg. (I know it is disgusting, but other runners – I know you get me!) I took cover in a patch of pseudo-forest and prayed to God I wasn’t visible from the road.

My luck would have it I saw Coach H. approaching in his Chevy Silverado. I knew he couldn’t see me; he stopped to ask Big Al how she was doing. Considering her and I both look like death warmed over, I am not sure how she would answer. I couldn’t hear her response, but whatever she said resulted in the “ride of shame”. (A play on the proverbial “walk of shame”). Lucky for me I was in and out of the woods before he seemed to notice I popped out of nowhere.

I knew I could have made it back to campus, but it would have been painful. Fortunately, the tailgate was still dropped and he motioned for me to climb up. Part of me didn’t want to succumb, but my body won the battle of mind over matter and I crawled up.

I share this story to illustrate that no matter what your respective sport, there will come a time where you must swallow your pride, humble yourself and get to work – if you plan to be successful. A couple years down the road, I became one of the “big girls” and chuckled to myself when I saw the newbies riding in bed of that old truck.

Push forward, but don’t ever forget where you started.