Dear Tallassee Community,
My name is Larry Dean, and our son Woodrow, is a member of the THS Class of 2022, who will be Seniors this fall. He is also a member of the THS Cross Country and Track teams, and as one of the distance runners for THS, is one of those that can often be seen running the sidewalks and streets of Tallassee after school or during the summer months. And that is the purpose of this letter – can any other "softer surface" training options be made available for and to these athletes.
Distance running, or "pounding the pavement" as it is sometimes called, requires putting miles in beyond what one will run in a race, which for Cross Country will generally be 3.1 miles. So, if one wants to race 3.1 miles, it makes sense that they will need to have some training runs that go beyond that distance.
These miles for Tallassee runners typically will be done in different ways, using different routes, but as stated above, most all of them will require being ever alert to (and sometimes dodging) traffic and will involve constant force being put on the hips, knees, ankles, and feet by virtue of the trauma caused by repeatedly running miles on hard surfaces. Even when those runs are done at the football stadium it may involve the concrete path around the football field.
Over time the relentless jarring of one's body on surfaces that don't "give", can often result in various injuries for these runners. Now some of this can be mitigated by wearing the right running shoe and one that sufficiently cushions the feet upon impact. Thankfully, shoe companies have come a long way from when I ran cross country in the late '60's – back then some of us even ran the races barefoot as there were few shoe choices. And certainly, running the grassy part of the football field presents an option, though to get much mileage that way requires a lot of circling, which has its own set of issues.
Amid these challenges, I want to commend Coach Worley and Coach Baynes for Cross Country, and they along with other coaches for Track. They have done the best they can with the physical resources available to them. The proof? For the last three years, the THS Cross Country team has gone to the sectional meets and came away qualifying as a team for the State Cross Country meet in North Alabama. These have not been Senior-laden teams; these have been (depending on the year) teams with most, if not all, of the team members being in 9th, 10th, or 11th grade or younger.
Remember, these young men and women are representing Tallassee as much as any other THS athlete. They do not draw big crowds, are not part of any pep rallies, and have not been asked (as a cross country team) to sit on a float at the Christmas parade. And really, that is actually ok - distance runners are a special breed and while they would gladly welcome spectators to their races, they know their training regimen is different from many other sports. They are ok with it, as long as you remember they are also your Tallassee Tigers.
What can be done? Yes, a brand-new track would be nice, though probably not an option at this point given the funding of the new high school expansion. What else? There is another possibility, and while it is the purpose of this letter, I realize it has its own challenges. I am (on my own, not in any way representing THS, or any other cross country or track parent) asking the members of the Tallassee and surrounding community to assess whether you might have any (off the main road) resources – or – know of some dirt roads in the area, that could possibly be used for some of the training runs of these well-deserving athletes.
For example, I have a friend in the area where we live that told me Woodrow could run around the circumference of one of his hayfields and another friend who volunteered to keep it mowed. Now, one time around is only a little over a mile, so quite a few trips will be needed to get the distance required for some of his runs; however, it will take a lot less trips around this hayfield than it would "circling" the football field.
One other option, which would require collaboration amongst key community leaders, would be forming a trail or trails on the property around the Babe Ruth fields. There seems to be space there, though of course maintaining a running path to ensure that it is as smooth as possible will take cooperation and diligence from leaders and citizens alike (I am willing to be a part of doing so). I have checked into this a little and right now there are several projects going on at the airport property, that will first need to be completed before any others can be initiated.
I understand there would be some key matters to address in any of these arrangements ("do's and don'ts", liability concerns, maybe signed agreements, etc.) and it may be that it would simply not work in quite a few situations. And yet, at least a conversation could be had to see if a way could be worked out that would provide a few other training options for "your Tallassee distance runners".
Thank you for your time.
Larry W. Dean