I was excited that Saturday morning. It was to be my first opportunity to leave the school without an exit note. Everyone was going out of the school gates, either as participants or as supporters. It was the much talked about Cross Country Race.
A lot of practice had been put in place by each of the four houses in preparation of this race. The 2nd term is a sporting term and you could see the vibes from the beginning of the term. Of all sporting activities involved in the annual inter house sports, none surpasses the Cross Country race in terms of involvement and preparation.
Preparations – usually supervised by house captains and officials – were done in either of these three ways
- Early Morning Jogs: As early as 4am, we were woken and marshaled to the intersection on the First Mainland Road that leads to the tuck-shop and girls hostel gate. The expectation was to jog round the school about 20 times. With sleepy eyes, we started the jogs but as expected, sleep evaded our eyes within the first lap. This was the route: First Mainland – Third Mainland – Abuja Road – Principal Road – First Mainland.
- Late Night Jogs: Sometimes, we were asked to repeat the jogs at night following the same route as in the morning.
- Daylight Field Jogs: Few times in broad daylight, especially on Thursdays, we were marshaled to the field where we had two pitches bounded tracks for events. I once ran round the 400 meter track 20 times in the morning. It took determination and a miracle for me to have breakfast that morning.
As expected, some students were exempted from such rigorous jogging activity – the asthmatic students – while others just jahhed for jahing sake or expressly refused to partake. Others usually start the race but walk through without finishing a lap.
The D-Day came and we were given tags. I have never taken my time to know the maximum amount of students allowed per house to participate (Maybe a former Sports Captain can help here). In my sight, every interested person had a tag. Different houses had their unique tagging system.
We all stood behind a line in front of the assembly hall, on the edge of the Third Mainland Road that led to the school gate. It was like freedom down the road. The whistle was blown and the race began. We ran towards and out of the school gate, down the sloppy hill parallel to the school walls, up the hills again to Solomon’s Porch and down the hill towards Odogbolu round about. As expected some persons retired on getting to the road about because they were already tired or they had some other activities to do – Digba, Ayonimofe, Let Them Say, etc. Eateries. Winks.
From the round about we raced towards Ikenne running up and down the hills that characterize the road. We were running on tarred rounds with officials and security personnel stationed around. We raced towards a Y-junction where we had to turn left. At the junction, there were Niger House officials giving out glucose and water. I sighted them from afar and i was thinking of how i would get some of the goodies. I was getting tired.
Luck shone on me. I saw a Niger house tag on the road. I picked it up, hid my Cross house tag and raced towards the glucose point. I had my feel of glucose, a good gulp and baptism of water before heading on. I kept the Niger house tag in case i met another party down the road.
The race continued through some settlements, a wooden bridge across a small river, into some non-tarred roads. The birds sang and the creatures of the forest made music but i don’t think anyone stopped there. We continued till we got to another band of glucose givers, water sharers and house supporters. I took my fill from the Cross house section and headed on. We crossed about two other check points before we arrived back at the round about.
Right there, Chad house were the only house with a glucose man. I was in red house in my primary school and that was the only vest i had and thus used for the race. I tapped into the glucose goodies hiding my Cross house tag. Red signified Chad – that was easy. Up and away, we climbed the hills that lead to the school gate, ran through Abuja staff quarters, in front of the principal’s house, through Ikoyi staff quarters, through Jamaica, Blockies Avenue and finally ended the race in front of the assembly hall.
I was not among the first 100 to finish the race. The first 100 were used to collate the scores with 1pt for the 100th and 100pt for the 1st. I can’t remember who finished first or which house won the race but I remember my legs struggling to take me to my hostel. I remember being so tired that only bathing and sleeping mattered to me.
It was fun to everybody who was involved. The joy of leaving school to town and the adventures that follows thereof. I participated for three other Cross Country races in FGC Odogbolu. I have no idea about the distance covered but it was day everyone looked forward to.
About six weeks ago, a Marathon was held in Lagos covering a distance of 42.195km. Due to busy schedule and lack of practice, I applied as a volunteer but I was not contacted back. The Lagos Marathon may gain nationwide popularity but my memories of the Cross Country races in FEGO remain fresh in my minds.
You can share your Cross Country experience with me in the comment section. Did you enjoy it?