Tuesday, January 16, 2007


I 've been thinking lately about perspective and how much mine has changed in the last five years since I started running.

I fancied myself a sprinter in my younger days (we're talking elementary school here). At the end of every school year, they'd hold "Field Day", during which we kids competed in all kinds of outdoor events. The races were my event and everybody knew I owned them. I was already tall for my age and as gangly as a soggy string bean, but I was fast (as in faster than a speeding bullet...well, at least from a fourth grader's perspective). The 100 yard dash?... pfft. Nobody even came close. They'd give me the first place ribbon before the race even started just to save time.

Then something happened between fourth grade and junior high school. I moved with my family to a new military assignment in upperstate New York and suddenly, nobody in my school was aware of my sprinting prowess. I must not have cared too much and retired my running shoes (canvas Keds, no doubt) and started focusing more on my academics. Instead of wow'ing my classmates with my running abilities, I wow'ed them with my good grammar and spelling skills.

High school came and went and although I was involved in athletics, I never picked up running. I could shoot the lights out with a basketball but never once considered playing on the school team because there was simply too much running. Even tennis-- which my two younger sisters took up-- didn't appeal to me because who wants to run around the court, chasing errant tennis balls? No thanks. Not me. And still, I kept my nose in my books, studied like the nerd I was and discovered my talent for writing.

College. Finally, I could get away from the whole high school atmosphere, with its inane subcultures of jocks, preps and nerds and just focus on further developing and nurturing my ever-growing intellect. But what's this?! I had to take a mandatory Health and Fitness course. And not only that, but as a requirement for the class, I had to run a mile and a half not once, but TWICE during the semester-- once at the very beginning and then again at the very end to determine if my fitness level had "improved" over the course of the semester.

Now, I was in pretty good shape my freshman year of college-- I was no athlete by any means, but I was trim and fit and could hold my own on any volleyball court. But I did NOT run. And I was supremely annoyed by the fact my health professor-- an overweight football coach-- was telling me to do just that as a requirement for the credit and the grade. Doing the runs was on the honor system: we were to time ourselves running the mile and a half and then turn in the time. I procrastinated as long as possible, but finally went to the indoor track one night and huffed and puffed my way through a mile and a half. I'm certain I walked the majority of it, but I reported the time then promptly forgot about it.

Until the end of the semester.

I knew my second run was upcoming and I dreaded it immensely. My roommate, a former high school cross-country star, tried to help encourage and motivate me. She invited me along to run occasionally and I'd always make up some excuse to politely decline. The one night I actually joined her, I made it about half a mile down the road before telling her I was tired and deserted her in the dark to turn back for my apartment.

The more I thought about the impending run, the more physically ill I became about it. I was still recovering from the trauma of my first run; how was I going to do that again?! Suddenly, I concocted a brilliant plan. Near as I recalled, I don't believe my professor had ever said the run had to be done in forward progress. I could simply jog in place in my bedroom for awhile and call it good! Take off... oh, about two minutes from my first time to show my improvement. Piece of cake.

So, I did it. Wasn't as much a piece of cake as I'd anticipated, but I did it.

And then I told my roommate. That was a mistake. She called me on the technical dishonesty of doing such a thing and before I knew it, she'd penetrated my conscience. I ended up running the wretched indoor track again, huffing and puffing even more than the first time, and turned in a time even longer than the first. Probably took an A- in the course because of it, but my conscience was clear. And I swore that was the last time anybody would ever make me run again.

Fast forward (ahem) 16 years later.

I haven't kept an ongoing tally, but I would guess my total mileage from the day I started running five years ago to the present would be around 1,500 miles. A run of a mile and half these days barely warms me up. A run of a mile and a half these days is barely worth the time it takes to get dressed and tie my shoes. A run of a mile and a half these days could practically be done in my sleep.

Isn't perspective an interesting thing?

1 comment:

robison52 said...

You have more of a running history than me...I did NO exercise until I was 48 years old...I was a total chess nerd since I was 8 years old and was able to avoid all forms of physical activity until I puffed up to 249 pounds and several cab friends died. My life is like BR (before running) and AR (after running)...I'm like two different creatures.