There was a gas station down the road from my high school. My memory is over twenty years old so the gas station may be gone now. After cross-country practice, my friends and I regularly stopped at the gas station on our drive home. Next to the counter, there was a fountain machine. It had the usual lineup of soft drinks, and it also had a Powerade Mountain Blast. You had a choice of cup sizes. Small, Medium, Large…and then the one we all chose.
Billy Big Gulp Size. A 32oz Fountain Drink for $1 with a large, animated “Billy Goat” character printed on the side.
Billy Big Gulp was the official, unofficial mascot of my High School cross-country team. New members were never team members until their first Billy Big Gulp. That Billy Goat provided all the motivation our team needed. Hard workout at practice? Keep going so you can get your Billy Big Gulp. Tough race day? Remember, Billy. That silly goat pushed countless runners beyond their point of quitting.
Those who say running is a solo sport have never met Billy Big Gulp. Billy Big Gulp was over twenty years ago for me, but I, and many of my former teammates, still remember those experiences. None of us needed 32 ounces of sugar after a high school workout. But that was not the point. It was about community and friendship. Running is a sport done individually but happens within a team setting. My high school days are long behind me, but the running community remains. Instead of Billy Big Gulps, I read social media posts, race recaps, and Strava feeds to keep in touch with my teammates.
The medium might have changed, but the heart of the narrative remains constant – running is as much about the journeys we share as the miles we chase.