On my About Me page I mention that I love running but was originally reluctant. The truth is, I hated running.
I ran to play tag and Soccer as a kid – but that had a purpose. Running to run was just silly, and boring.
We had to run in gym class a few times a year. Mostly, I remember having to complete a quarter-mile or half-mile run the Presidential Physical Fitness Test – something anyone who attended school in the United States probably remembers. These were tests given in gym class twice a year to see how fit we were when compared with others our age. I’ve always been competitive and sporty, so I secretly enjoyed the challenge. But, I hated the run. In addition to finding it boring, I usually had some discomfort. Not the kind of discomfort that comes from sore muscles and working hard; my knees hurt.
You see, I wasn’t very cool in middle school. I know middle school is an awful time for most people but I had managed a particularly special level of uncool. To combat this, I tried harder to be cool, which of course only made things worse (i.e. sitting on my own during lunch and having gum spat in my hair). My efforts to be more cool included insisting that I wear Keds, even in gym class, “just like all the cool kids.” (And to be clear, we’re talking the classic white canvas shoe lace ups with a thin sole.) In hindsight, it’s a no brainer my knees hurt.
When I was in grade 7 my mother insisted I try some sporty white canvas shoes. They had a thicker sole which was meant to be better for gym activities. I remember internally panicking about the implications to my cool factor and my mom saying, “Just try them for gym class. If you try them and hate them, fine. But, just try them.”
Now, my mom (like most mothers, I’m sure) had a sixth-sense to know when I was lying. Or, I’m not a very good lier, which is also likely. Either way, I knew I had to actually give them a go before I could go back to her and say I hated them and I wanted to wear the cool shoes for gym.
As luck would have it, the week my mother gave me the special gym-worthy white canvas shoes, was the same week of the President’s Fitness Test. My memory is of having to run a three-quarter mile, but it might have been a different distance. Either way, what I am sure of is that my knees didn’t hurt. We got the starting whistle and I took off. A bit of the way in, I turned my head and realised that pretty much everyone was behind me.
This was awesome! I was in front of the normally sporty (and cool) kids. I felt great. It was kind of fun, and actually felt kind of easy. My competitiveness kicked in and I finished the run in front – even beating almost all the boys. In fact, I think the only boys in front of me were on the Cross-Country team.
The next thing I remember is that someone from the school started talking to me about joining the Cross-Country team for following year. I had tried out for the soccer team perviously and failed miserably. Because I was so desperate to fit in, I thought I would give Cross-Country a try. It would mean I was on a sport team, and that had to make me cooler!
So, I got some proper running shoes and started running. In fact, once I started running, I never really stopped. In Eighth Grade, I was on a team and making new friends. I was pretty good at running too. (It turns out I am much better at activities that don’t require a lot of hand-eye coordination – or in soccer’s case, foot-eye coordination.) The better I got, the better I wanted to get, so the harder I tried. Also, my self-confidence improved, so my social problems started to slip away. Before I knew it, I loved running.
I started High School as a runner and became very competitive. Running became an all-year activity (Cross-County, Winter Running Club, Track & Field, Summer Running Club). We ate, slept and thought running all year (expect Spring Break, when my family went skiing). Running kept me focused in school and more confident in life. I had an identity in school and friends.
I’ve continued to run throughout my life and have thought of myself as a runner ever since. Running grows on you and gets under your skin. It becomes addictive. You know you are a runner when you don’t get to go for a run for some reason and you become super cranky. I’ve been competitive off and on, but every point in my life when I have been successful at the non-running parts – I’ve been running on a regular basis.
For me, running certainly wasn’t love at first sight. But, it’s definitely a love I can’t live without.