I have always respectfully admired runners. I respect them for their self-discipline and for their commitment to exercise. As a former lacrosse player, I respected the cross-country team because their sport was my sport’s punishment, and always thought of their competitions as organized events designed to see who could hurt the fastest.
I hate running.
When I entered high school, my mother grew tired of driving me and decided it was time I started walking to school. Maybe this was an attempt to try and teach me about punctuality and responsibility, since she was forced to walk to school from her younger days. I was devastated at the prospect of the .89ths of a mile walk. Luckily, I lived near a bus stop, so I was able to jump on the bus every morning and avoided the effort, shattering my mother’s “back in my day” life lesson experience.
Every morning, I lined up with the same people to get on the bus, some of whom frequently pushed their way to the front of the line. I could never understand that. Why would you ever want to be the first person to get on the bus? It’s a loud, metal box filled with pubescents who either bathe in Axe, or don’t bathe at all. It is perpetually humid and filled with the smell of microwavable breakfast items, even in the afternoon. There are always at least five different genres of music leaking through “noise-canceling” ear buds into one strange, amorphous song.
I hated the bus, but I hated walking more.
Every morning, I made it my mission to minimize the time I spent on the bus as much as possible by loitering in the back of the line until the very last moment. This strategy worked extremely well because it guaranteed me a seat in the front row. At the front of the bus, there is more space, and it is easier to see outside the front windshield. For a person who is fairly susceptible to motion sickness, this was a big deal.
Every morning, the bus took the same route to school, and I quickly became familiar with the same streets and houses. More interestingly, I began to recognize the same people completing their own morning routine, particularly the joggers. By the time my senior year rolled around, I had developed a game similar to Eye Spy, using only the abundant supply of joggers living in my neighborhood. I played with the other front-row kids, and the first to spot three of the following would win for the day.
Hip jogger mom. Usually clothed head-to-toe in Lululemon, but sometimes seen taking a fashion risk by way of Athletic hat or neon Nike shoes. She is commonly spotted pushing her two children in a jogging stroller, crushing the self-esteem of onlookers.
The middle school kid outrunning his dad.
The guy outrunning his dog.
The guy who refuses to wear a shirt, regardless of the temperature.
The woman who wears long sleeves and sweatpants regardless of the temperature.
The perfectly matching, sunglass-wearing competitive-running couple. This couple doesn’t sweat, nor do they feel fatigue. Ever.
The Mob. This giant cluster of people takes up an entire blocks with their morning running club. They are sponsored by the local running store Fleet Feet (I only know this running store exists because it is right next door to Baskin Robbins), and run at a pace so leisurely, even bikers feel resentful.
The college student. Every few steps, he stops to check his watch to see how much longer his workout will last.
I hated running from a very young age. Growing up, I was never a particularly athletic child. I was easily winded and terrible at pacing myself. The first time I ran the mile in 2nd grade, I honestly thought I was going into cardiac arrest. When I was in elementary school, the entire student body had to pass a mandatory physical fitness test that involved jumping rope, doing sit-ups, throwing softballs, and of course, running the mile.
Every spring, my classmates and I would line up on the grass and run circles around a track. This track was really just a giant field, so by the time afternoon P.E. rolled around, the morning P.E. classes had already dissolved the grass into a muddy, formless ring. In a feeble attempt to maintain the track façade, our coach would place cones on the field in the shape of a wilted oval. These cones, not to mention the massive muddy potholes, prevented most kids from cheating, forcing them to run around the entire course. Most. For others it became a game to see how much mud they could kick up while running through the potholes, not only dirtying themselves, but taking down as many other runners with them as they could. I realize now that running the mile couldn’t have taken much more ten minutes, but at the time, I thought it lasted for about an hour.
Every year I took this test, and have memories of sprinting as hard as I could for the first ten feet, then abruptly stopping to gasp and wheeze from exhaustion and allergies. I also remember discussing strategies with my friends about how to make running easier. One of them included trying to teach ourselves circular breathing.
As we ran, we would sing “Mary had a Little Lamb” in our heads while breathing in for every other syllable. This was suppose to both help control and stabilize our breathing. That didn’t work very well. By the 4th grade, I figured out if I did this sort of bouncy walk, while swinging my arms with my elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, from across the field it almost appeared as if I was actually running.
After this, I managed to avoid timed running altogether until 9th grade, when I decided to join the lacrosse team. I had always aspired to join the lacrosse team.
The great thing about lacrosse is that it is fairly new to the West Coast, so everyone starts on an even playing field. Everyone I met who was on the team was extremely nice and inclusive, even to freshmen. It’s the ultimate game, a mix between soccer and hockey, with the opportunity for the defense to share in the glory, a rare event in the athletic world.
However, in order to get on the team each member had to complete a timed mile as a part of tryouts, and I was petrified. I decided to train beforehand, hoping to lessen my embarrassment in front of the upperclassmen. Weeks before tryouts, I started myself on a homemade training program. I would suit up in my only pair of black Nike shorts and a t-shirt, grab my purple Camelbak, and plug in my iPod. I had no idea what I was doing. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone because to my knowledge, there is nobody to impress at the Oak Grove Apartment Complex Workout Center. Instead, these clothes gave me mental encouragement and acted as a binding contract. These clothes gave me hope that I would no longer be that kid who was lapped twice by the girl with asthma. All this preparation went into a workout that barely lasted 15 minutes. I’m pretty sure it took me longer to change my clothes and mentally psych myself up than it did to actually go for a run.
Once, I decided to try the elliptical because it looked easier than the treadmill. It took me 16 minutes to go .6 miles. Lesson learned.
In the end, I managed to pass my coach’s running test, which helped me fulfill my P.E. requirement and graduate high school.
Now that I am finished with high school athletics and am in charge of my own schedule, I have gotten over my fear of running. The loathing is still there, but I stopped feeling panic-stricken every time I passed the local track across the street from my house. If you are a runner, more power to you, but you won’t see me out there. I have transitioned into following some guy in spandex on YouTube and am working on my 8-minute abs twice a week, in the privacy of my living room floor.