Personal Inventory

Our college coach, the estimable Elliot Noyes had a style and understated humor that still tickles. Or stings. After one of my even-worse-than-normal cross-country performances, he wandered over, got not too close, gave me his sidelong look, and said, “Alvarez, that was a rather genteel pace you set today.” He loved rococo language constructions. Beards and mustaches, for example, were “hirsute facial embellishments” He always called time trials “personal inventories.” I’ve lately been chuckling at how much more useful a term that is for creaky old guys staggering around the roads. A time trial would be ludicrous and bizarre, but a personal inventory is perfect: left knee okay, right knee not so hot, belly jiggling in ¾ time, whimpering moderate….

There was also a wonderfully silly joy of running for Ellie. Freshmen couldn’t compete in varsity sports in those days, so the student newspaper would report on the freshmen teams separately. The college teams—the varsity teams—were called the Big Green, but not the poor frosh. It’s pretty hard to take yourself seriously once you’ve spent a year being referred to in sportspeak as one of the “Peagreen Noyesmen.”

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