Cross-coun­try stroll in park, but still char­ac­ter build­ing

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - NEWS - Mi­randa Mur­phy

I’M WRIT­ING this col­umn on a bench in a per­fectly pleas­ant park, on a per­fectly pleas­ant day, as scenes of suf­fer­ing un­fold around me.

No, it’s not peo­ple’s pic­nics be­ing raided by filthy ibises — it’s our school’s an­nual cross-coun­try.

De­spite the huff­ing, puff­ing and ex­er­tion of the par­tic­i­pants, I use the event name loosely — this is “cross-coun­try” in the in­ner city.

Two laps of the cricket oval and avoid the moth­ers’ groups.

Soy lat­tes for ev­ery­one at the fin­ish line.

It’s just a far cry from the tor­tur­ous cross-coun­try we en­dured “when I was a lass”.

We’d stag­ger along in squelchy sneak­ers for miles, get lost quite a lot, reach a point some­where over the Vic­to­rian bor­der and turn around, mud­died and blood­ied, for home. My GP dad oblig­ingly wrote me notes to avoid the drama.

To­day the teacher lines up the run­ners, in­struct­ing: “If you’re com­pet­i­tive, go to the front.” Some kids, like my younger daugh­ter, go out hard early and fade fast; more Ae­sop’s Hare than En­er­gizer Bunny.

I see a great act of sports­man­ship. One of the quick young lads takes a nasty tum­ble and at least six boys — be­hind and ahead of him — stop to help. It seems cross-coun­try can be char­ac­ter build­ing af­ter all.

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