Running After High School

During my senior year of high school, I told myself that I wouldn't run at University. I didn't want what defined me for the past four years to continue to define me for the next stage of my life. Not to mention, I was injured, tired, and in full-on slump mode. Enter the Hare and Hounds.

I never would have thought that I could even begin to match the experience that I had running in high school for Newton South Cross Country. But this past weekend that I spent with the University of Edinburgh Hare and Hounds running club (aka the Haries) in Manchester (England!) for a race convinced me that being part of a running community is always a good decision.

Before I get to telling you about any Manchester antics, however, let me tell you a little story about a scared high school freshman named Leda.

Back in 2010, I joined my high school's cross country team, because, well, my brothers ran in high school and I ran in middle school. I trained for about three weeks when my coach told me I seemed ready enough to go on an overnight with the team (mostly older girls, and just one other freshman). To say I was terrified is an immense understatement. I cried to my mom, to my dad, and to my brothers over the phone. When the weekend came, though, I boarded onto my coach's blue minivan and headed to Hartford, Connecticut.

I think we were showing off our painted nails in this picture.

And whaddya know? It was the best weekend of my freshman year, by far. I bonded with the team, and from then on, I really felt like a part of NSXC.

Even though I felt incredibly nervous prior to going to Manchester this weekend, I kept reminding myself of that experience. And, just as I thought, Manchester (or Madchester as it is fondly nicknamed), was the absolute best experience of University I've had thus far.

The weekend started by waking up at an ungodly hour on Saturday morning. It was pitch black and freezing but of course the day to come was incentive enough for such torture. Five hours on a bus and we had successfully made it to Manchester.

We arrived at the course about two hours before the race. #Throwback to running for South when we were always the first ones there and the last ones to leave. The course was only 3K, so it wasn't much of a struggle for anyone on the team. And to be honest, we were all too excited about the post-race rewards to even be nervous about racing.

I accidentally took this picture from the wrong side... but you get the idea!

What were those rewards you ask? Two words: Cake & beer. There is nothing better than sweets after running. And while the thought of a beer after crossing the finish line initially made me sick, I made the smart (and unconscious) decision of picking up a can of hard cider instead of Tennents.

So many baked goods in one place. 

Never thought I'd see something like this at a cross country meet. 

Once all food and drink had been consumed, we changed into army gear for the upcoming social. And, I must say, we all looked fabulous. Facepaint was a must, of course.

The lovely Manchester team got us all settled into our respective host-houses and the craziness ensued. There were card games, party poppers, green (Haries!) and orange (Manchester!) balloons, and sparklers.

Sparklers provided by our hosts added much spirit to the night.

After we had exhausted all of our party accessories, we headed over to a curry house for what else but... curry! Oh, and lots of chanting. You see, the competition between teams doesn't stop at racing. It continues at the parties in which we must demonstrate our social prowess through both shouting and drinking.

Immediately following our dinner at the curry house, we took to the streets of Manchester and headed to a club. There was dancing, cheesy music, and lots of fun club photos. The clocks went back early on Sunday morning, so we technically had an extra hour at the club. But, alas, we were all exhausted and so we made our way back to the house for some much needed sleep on the floor of a living room. Not the comfiest, but it did the trick. Plus, we had the whole bus ride back to sleep.

Aren't we just the cutest? 

By the end of the trip, I felt so much closer to my team. Nothing like a "cracking weekend" away with the Haries to help create bonds that will last a lifetime.

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