As a sophomore in high school, I joined an elite group of weirdos who loved self punishment – otherwise known as cross country running. Every day after school we’d gather near the outside stairs, and run for as long as our coach told us to. The girls’ route was always shorter than the boys’ (suckers), and to make sure we were training properly, he’d check in by sporadically popping up along the route. We could recognize his truck from four blocks away, but considering it was a small town, it was best to keep moving, lest someone rat you out.
After a few weeks, three mile runs became my jam. I never got too tired, could run them somewhat quickly, and didn’t want to die when it was over. Five miles never got any easier, no matter how many times I ran it, and my time never really improved. I was there to socialize/not require an after school job – the racing part was just an unfortunate accessory.
Then, about two months in, I came down with mono and slept 15 hours per day. I could no longer run, doctors orders, and I even had a free pass to leave school as needed. “Oh you’re tired? See you tomorrow!” The front office would say, holding the door open on my way out.
The thing about being able to leave school at 14, is that you always do it. Sure I tried to miss classes evenly so as to not fall too far behind. But what student is going to show up for science book reading when they could be snoozing all afternoon? Add in the fact that I was truly tired all day, every day, and sleep won for weeks on end.
Sure I eventually got better, but who wants to re-take up running when you’ve gotten all comfortable?
Not this girl.
Against my better wishes, I’ve joined Manny in his weekly running group. In this so-called club, participants are welcome to run as far as they please (though most max out at six miles), and as fast as they please. For me, that means jogging almost half of the way – extremely slowly – walking for a few minutes, then finishing out in a trot, so long as it’s downhill. And by the time I’m returning from my three-mile loop, the fast five mile-ers are blowing past me, as if they’re in a 100-yard dash.
Meanwhile I’m huffing my way, hoping the pass count is under five runners. After weeks of this regimen, I’ve yet to jog the entire course. One, because I’m lazy and it hurts, but also because I kind of don’t care. I’m there to get some exercise and spend some time outdoors, not pound my body into a pain-induced good shape. So run on past, racers, I’ll be cheering you on silently while jamming to Pandora. Slowly but effectively making my way back to home base. Except when I fall on my elbow and am bleeding from multiple joints – then I walk to my sister’s apartment and milk her sympathy.
It’s true that I feel pretty hypocritical, but I’m also working hard at not getting fat – or as hard as a once-a-week jog can become. Add in the sometimes free beer, and it doesn’t seem all that bad. Look out fasties, because somewhere behind you, way behind, I’m still there.