Cross Country - The Lost Boys

I remember Cross Country at the Salvo with good reason. I was in the 4th year and Fr Louis brought 8 pupils from each of the first 4 years up to Bentley Priory Woods, for the Harrow Cross Country Trials. The general idea was that the 6 fastest from each year would make the team. Rather than a straight forward race Fr Louis was inspired and decided it should be run as a time trial, with each of the runners setting off at 5 second intervals. The benefit for Fr Louis, as he explained at the time, was that he need only explain the course to the lead runner and then everybody else would follow.

"The best laid plans of mice and men" ... and all that. Fr Louis chose badly, a mistake of gargantuan proportion, in selecting me as the hare. Though reasonably talented in the running department, vision wise I came a close second to Stevie Wonder ... yet vainly (without reason) ... refused to wear glasses for anything outside school. Just to put it in perspective (HaHa!) my sight was -11.00 diopters in both eyes. This meant that everything further away than a few inches was blurred.

I still remember the instructions with crystal clarity ... I was to follow the path till I got to the perimeter fence of RAF Bentley Priory, then turn left off the path and follow the fence, when the fence disappeared (it never really appeared in the true sense) I should run as straight 'as an arrow' for 800yards and that would bring me back to the original path and hopefully unerringly back to him and his stopwatch.

Now a path is quite easily to follow even for the severely myopic. A security fence, though posing a stiff challenge, was still just about within my field of vision ... a wide open space on the other hand was asking for trouble ... just a series of blurred greens. Though personally I felt I was following an invisible Roman road, my route wasn't probably best described as 'as the crow flies' (unless the crow was the worse for drink). Undaunted, like a blind pied piper I led everyone over ditches, across streams, over styles, through field's of cows ... and not a single Salvatorian priest to be found.

Imagine Fr Louis's embarrassment at not losing 1 boy, but all 32! It took nearly 2 hours for him to herd all the amateur ramblers together.

On returning to the Salvo Fr Louis 'invited' me into the gym where demonstrated the 'cross' bit of 'cross country'. I was slippered, presumably on the grounds of gross stupidity and in all honesty I would find it hard to argue against the claim.

Why when you were slippered did you have to provide your own gym shoe. Do firing squads ask the prisoner to provide a rifle, or the hangman if the accused has any old bit of rope? Don't you think it added insult to injury?
(Colm Foley 71-78)

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