I was never an athlete. I’ve never played a team sport or single-mindedly pursued a solitary sport. P.E. class was an exercise in torture, whether the class was twice a week or every day. I was uniquely gifted with both insecurity and a certain amount of clumsiness along with a certain something that invited teasing and no small amount of ridicule from my peers (especially the ones who could pinpoint weakness with a single sniff). Without desks that other classes furnished, to anchor these emotional vultures to individual locations, the increased access that gym class gave them to me turned it into the period of the day where I just worked really hard not to burst into tears.
There was one instance though, where easy access to tears paid off. Towards the end of 8th grade, the guidance counselors from the neighborhood high school came to my middle school to get us registered for our coming matriculation and pick classes for the coming year. P.E. was compulsory for all 9th graders, a reality I was not willing to accept. So, sitting there with Mr. Skye (my counselor for all four years of high school) and my mom, I started weeping. I know I freaked out Mr. Skye, I’m sure he thought that if he put me in a P.E. class, that I might turn suicidal. When I got my schedule in August, P.E. was absent from my schedule. I hadn’t been waived from the requirement, at that point I was just putting it off. But when I got thrown from a horse two years later and broke my ankle, I found my escape route. I never took P.E. again.
So about two years ago, with this baggage firmly packed, I started exercising on a regular basis. I live in a building with with a small gym, that costs $50 a year. I had no excuse. I wanted to get healthier and lose some weight. I started walking on a treadmill several times a week. My boyfriend at the time was a runner and wanted a running partner. He encouraged me to start running a little bit during my walks. It started out that I could run a REALLY slow five minutes. I remember the first time I ran 15 minutes straight, I was really thrilled. The relationship ended, but I kept running.
And yesterday I hit a milestone. For the first time in my life, my treadmill cut me off. Let me say that again, MY TREADMILL CUT ME OFF! I had run for 60 minutes straight (wow!) and the treadmill shifted into cool down mode. I turned the treadmill right back on, so I could finish my five miles. I’m pretty darn pleased with myself these days, that I’ve committed to running and stuck with it. I’m going to do the Broad Street Run in May, which is ten miles, so I do still have a ways to go, but I’m confident that I’ll get there.
Having gotten to this point in my athletic pursuit, so far away from the kid I was in gym class, I wish that just one of the gym teachers I had could have shown me how much fun it is to be active and exercise. If only one of them had said, “you can run the mile, but you have to build up to it. Start by running five minutes and then build on that. Every day do just a little more and you’ll get there.” But no one ever said that. They just said, “Okay, today’s the day we’re doing the mile, start jogging.” I’m really happy that I’ve developed this relationship with my body and it’s ability to move and I’m not stopping, but I’m sad for the kid I was then. I don’t think I would appreciate my achievements now without having been the kid was, so I’m just going to keep working towards my little goals, a little more each day, knowing that she’s cheering me on.