Why the hell do I run?

Honestly, I don’t even know how I got into running – and why I’ve stayed into it, because it’s painful and arduous and agonizing. For years, I refused to jog, after I graduated from college. When I had to jog in college as a way to stay in shape for soccer and softball, it was an obligation.

But once I went into the working world, I tried. And I couldn’t jog more than a mile. And it sucked. And I gave it up and traded it in for a bike, which was much easier but still gave me a sense of satisfaction.

I can trace my innate fear of running. In elementary school – yes, in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL – we were required to run a mile as part of the Presidential Fitness Test. Yes, President Reagan mandated that we run a mile. I’m that old. Anyhow. We were never trained to prepare for the mile run, the dreaded mile run. We were never told to run a lap around the soccer field as a warm-up before class, or that this test would be coming. We’d just show up at gym class and Mr. Lord (who was more like Mr. Devil) would announce, “Guess what, kids! You’re going to run a mile on Wednesday!”

Four laps around the massive field behind the elementary school. Being the non-athletic kid in the class (believe it or not, I was once unathletic), I’d find a way not to run that mile. I’d wear the wrong shoes that day. Or I’d go to school in a turtleneck and skirt. Or I’d feign an illness.

Finally, the day came when I had to run that mile. Or fail gym class and disappoint my parents.

Mr. Lord barked at us, telling us non-athletic fourth graders how awfully out of shape we were, and that we weren’t competent athletically and generally laughing at the kids who couldn’t run that mile. It was mortifying, and he did that to every kid in his class who couldn’t turn a cartwheel or kick a soccer ball … or run a mile.

Mr. Lord had no business being a teacher, did he?

Years later, as I started to jog again, I realized a few things:

We are likely never properly trained to jog. It’s not an easy endeavor, and so much of it is about mechanics. Efficiency is as important as speed, and sometimes even more important.

If you can jog a mile, you’re doing OK. Keep going.

There’s one more thing I realized, long before I started jogging again. I made the softball team in the ninth grade and I remember getting off the bus after an away game. Mr. Lord was the girls soccer coach at my high school, and was talking to some of his players. He and I made eye contact, and I nodded to him. And I thought one thing:

“All that yelling you did at me when I couldn’t run a mile, you probably never thought I’d become an athlete, did you?”

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