My very first time running a race was in my freshman year of high school. I had this tremendous desire to be stronger, faster, and healthier than ever, so I decided to become a year-round athlete.
Unfortunately, I’d missed pre-season tryouts for all of the fall athletic teams, meaning that the soccer team and the volleyball team were full. That left me with cross-country. At 13, I’d already been playing basketball for 8 years and had danced for almost 10. I had the confidence of a natural-born ninja and was up to try anything.
Bad at Running?
As a group fitness instructor, I hear students say all the time that they are “bad at running.” But actually…Human beings are wired for running, so most people, despite what they think, aren’t bad at it. They may be de-conditioned, lack the skill to run efficiently, or have some sort of condition that makes difficult or uncomfortable to run. I was the latter case.
Blame It On the Lungs
You may already know this, but for those who don’t… I’m asthmatic.
I was diagnosed at birth. Short version of my story: Despite receiving the horrifyingly misguided news that I would never be able to be physically active, my mom realized very early on that playing sports was my jam! Although I often had to hack and wheeze my way through the 3rd and 4th quarters on the court (constantly yelling “I’m *cough* fine! *hack* to my coach), it never occurred to me that my lung condition would hold me back. That’s why it was particularly shocking for me to realize… I sucked at cross-country!
So All We Do Is Run?
I’ll admit that I joined the team having no idea what what a cross-country team does. So imagine my shock when, at the first practice, I realized that all we were going to do was run the hills around “the Castle,” which was the name we used to describe the property surrounding Presentation of Mary Academy, where the Sisters of the Presentation lived.
Born to Sprint… in Short Bursts
As a basketball player, I was trained for short bursts of speed. I was a natural defender. I could almost always get to the net before the offense did. Good luck getting any cross-court passes by me…
Knowing this, when the team took off for our first run, I was confident. Over-confident. I went out hard. The first 60 seconds were easy peasy. It was everything after that, the next 30-40 minutes (I’m not sure. It felt like hours) that were plain and pure torture. Which burned more? My legs or my lungs? It was hard to tell. And I was baffled, truly baffled by how easy the other girls made it all seem.
My First Race
I remember standing at the starting line and looking over the grassy terrain of Notredame high school with the following thoughts bouncing through my mind:
- So… we’re not running on a track?
- Where are we? At a school or in the wilderness?
- How the hell am I supposed to know where to go?
- If I get lost, who will come find me?
Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t SCARE per se. But there WERE a lot of unknowns. All I really knew was that I had to run. So as I heard the shot go off, I RAN.
My First Epic Fail
These are the things I remember about my first race:
- I walked about 80% of it.
- I got lost. Thankfully, I was going so slow that people on my team and the other time had time to re-run the race and come find me.
- The race monitors who were strategically placed to make sure that no one hurts themselves kept asking if I wanted to give up. I can only assume this was because I was wheezing and going very slowly. I declined.
- When I did reach the finish line, my coach congratulated me for not giving up!
So I guess it wasn’t a COMPLETE and total failure. Despite hating every moment, I stuck with it. Looking back, I can see that for me, that was an accomplishment. That, and the fact that I stayed on the team for the rest of the year (before jumping ship the following fall for my all time love… volleyball!).
Not a Runner. Someone Who Runs
I’m not sure why, but I’ve tortured myself with many more runs since that day. Although I keep my personal workouts on the lighter side these days, to accommodate for the physical demands of my teaching schedule, I like to participate in races once in a while to get back in the runner’s spirit.
In fact, I’m participating in this year’s Silicon Valley Turkey Trot for the first time in a while! I’m actually trying to see how many people I can recruit to run alongside me. After all, it’s not about being GOOD at running. It’s about challenging ourselves to try something with the support of friends around us.
Did you like this story? If so, leave a comment below and share this blog with your friends! And please don’t hesitate to share your own cross-country or first run stories too!