The summer before my junior year of high school, my family moved from small-town Indiana to France for my dad's job. Talk about culture shock! I attended the American School of Paris (ASP), which in reality was very international, with roughly half the kids from countries other than the US. I remember after the first week of school, my best friends were from Finland, Australia, Brazil, and Morocco to name a few, and I had the hots for a girl from Norway. Sports at ASP were really cool. Instead of bus rides to neighboring towns like I was used to in Indiana, we took high-speed trains to other American and international schools throughout Europe. I was able to take multiple trips to London, Brussels, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and Zurich among other cities. My junior year we hosted the International School Sports Tournament (ISST) for basketball, beating Athens in the finals. All in all living overseas was an awesome experience.
My senior year, the ISST championship cross country race was held in London. I'll never forget watching the junior varsity race before my own race. When the gun went off, a freshman at our school named Dan Jones took off like he had been shot from a cannon. Within the first 200 meters he probably had a 100 meter lead. No joke. Just looking at him you would've thought it was a 50 meter sprint, not a 5k run. Everyone was like "whoa that guy is fast!"
this is how I remember Dan's start
Many of the courses in Europe had an "over the river and through the woods" feel to them, at least compared to the flat cornfields of Indiana. This course started on a grassy field, but then led runners to a trail through a thick, hilly forest for the next 800 meters of so before spitting them out onto another field. Everyone lined the exit of the woods where the runners would come out, looking for Dan Jones to emerge as the frontrunner. We spotted the race leader... Dan?? Nope, dang, someone must have overtaken him in the woods. The next few runners emerged. Where's Dan?? He was looking so strong! Another 100 or so came and went. Seriously, where the hell is Dan?? Just as we were convinced he must have turned an ankle or something in the woods, a beleaguered Dan Jones finally appeared on the horizon, sucking wind and holding off last place by only a couple of spots.
Dan Jones was and I'm sure still is a great guy. Dan, if by some chance you ever read this, I'm laughing with you my man. My family and I have laughed about this story over the years, and it's become a metaphor for starting fast and burning out in various aspects of life... kinda like many a New Year's Resolution. Here's to staying strong in 2015!