For nearly a decade, a college women’s cross country team in Grand Rapids has enjoyed a tradition on the last Saturday of the fall semester: a morning run followed by French toast mittens at their coach’s house.
The ritual offers an easy group run and a relaxing time ahead of the next week’s exams.
Because it is one of the few Saturdays during the school year without a meet or organized practice, the starting time for the run turns into a negotiation the rivals a hostage rescue or corporate merger. “I’ll push for an early start,” says the coach, “but they all want to sleep in and make it more of a brunch. I give a little, but in the end it’s usually around 8 a.m.”
So around 9 a.m. a dozen or so noisy, layered and steaming runners burst through the front door, leaving a pile of running shoes, discarded hats, gloves and jackets. The family’s black lab mutt is barking and darting between them, sniffing out the true dog lovers and annoying the rest.
The mayhem quickly organizes into two groups, one clustering around the coffee pot, the other stirring hot chocolate mix into mugs of near-boiling water. Within ten minutes the noise level subsides and the business of eating scrambled eggs, warm homemade applesauce and French toast mittens commences.
“The idea of mittens came from making Christmas cut out cookies,” explains the coach. “I looked at the cookie cutter mitten and thought that would be perfect for making French toast. There’s a novelty to it and besides, it’s just fun to say ‘French toast mittens.’”
As the mountain of mittens diminishes, the noise level rises as the post-run and post-meal satisfaction settles in. There are papers to finish and exams to study for, but no one is in a hurry to leave. Eventually, they do, and the syrup-sticky paper plates are collected in a large trash bag and the dog explores under the table for any last crumbs as the shoes, hats, gloves and jackets go back on and out into the clear, cold December morning.