My relationship with running started when I was around five or six years old. Back then I LOVED running. I would run around for hours with my sister or neighborhood friends. I loved the feeling of extra air in my lungs and coming into the house with pink cheeks. Running was easy at that time, and it never felt like a chore.
Then, in the midst of my awkward puberty stage, running decided to humiliate me in the sixth grade. Gone were the days where running was carefree and exhilarating. Now, running was something that hooked into your ego and self-esteem.
PE in middle school is one of the most embarrassing and social numbing experiences out there. Not only is your body going in every which way, you don’t want to highlight that by not having any physical prowess. This is where the humiliation part kicked in. Once a month we had a “fitness day” where we were tested on everything from pull ups, to sit ups, squats, jumps and RUNNING.
I was a gymnast for many years, and was always fairly athletic, so I was not too intimidated by the first fitness test of the year. I was new to the school, didn’t have any friends yet, and thought I could fit into the sports crowd by wowing them with my physical athletic capabilities.
I was horribly mistaken, and it was running that let me down.
It was a colder day, slightly dreary and we were all cattled around the center of the football field. We were instructed that we all had to run the mile, and that we would be timed. Everyone had to participate in the endeavor and no one would be allowed to leave until EVERYONE WAS DONE. And the teacher meant that.
Running the mile around this track meant running around it six times. We all lined up on the track, and he blew the whistle. I was off. The first half of the first lap wasn’t too bad. I had found a decent stride, the cramps in my legs hadn’t kicked in yet. Heck, I was even ahead of the three questionable weird kids! After the first lap I thought, “I got this.”
Then lap two happened. I am not sure if it was actual soreness or lack of confidence, but I just couldn’t run anymore. My lungs started to burn, snot was building up in my nose. I had a side rib cramp, and one of my calf muscles seized up. One by one, kids started running their third and fourth laps around me while I was pathetically limping along on my second one. Not wanting to feel like an even bigger nerd than I already felt, I mustered up enough energy to try and run and only ended up with bursts of hobbled walking. It just wasn’t going to happen. I couldn’t run anymore. I felt like I was going to cry, and tried to hold back tears, but the overwhelming ball in my throat wouldn’t let me and I began to sob while I walked around the track.
Slowly the herd of sixth grade bodies thinned out, and they were all sitting in the middle of the football field waiting for me to finish; I was the last one to complete the mile. I could see kids snickering and jeering as I tried to run my final lap. Even the teacher was waiting impatiently and would look at his watch while holding the timer. “Come on Ms. Lange”” Hurry it up, these kids need to get to lunch.”
Not only was I the last kid to run the mile, I was keeping everyone back from lunch (The one thing every middle schooler waits for all day). Running not only humiliated me by failing to make me look cool, I was now responsible for cutting everyone’s lunch short. After this event, I sat alone in the cafeteria for at least a month.
Finally, I crossed the finish line and everyone got up to go to the locker rooms. I purposefully stayed behind, because I didn’t want to see their faces, and didn’t want them to see mine. Running ruined my life.
From that day forward I have since had a love/hate relationship with running. I was able to recoup emotionally on some level, and when the fitness test happened again, I wasn’t necessarily the last person, but have never been the first. Running became this thing that I was suddenly afraid of. Every time the teacher announced “Fitness Day,” I would hope that I would spontaneously combust so I wouldn’t have to participate. I still feel that way. When my husband suggested a few years ago that we try training for a 5K I found every reason not to, and almost started weeping at the thought of anyone seeing me run. We did the program, I gave it what I could. We finished the program, but never did our 5K.
But now, I have my own son, and he needs to know his mom is not afraid anymore. I never want Idan to experience or feel the way I felt when that happened to me. I know we cannot prevent these moments, but I hope I can show him he can recover. I refuse to be that girl who sobs on the last lap and wants to die inside from humiliation.
I have started training for a 5K again, and this time I am going to do it. I want to experience the extra air in my lungs and feel elated again. I want to see what my body is capable of, and not be afraid of getting outside my comfort zone. I want to tell that 6th grade girl that it is ok to be last, because you know what? You finished.
And that is what I intend to do. Finish.
I don’t need to be first, and if I am last that is okay. At least I can say I did it, and I am not afraid anymore. So, to complete this goal, my husband and I are participating in the “Devil Dash” 5k, mud-run and obstacle course in September (We Humphreys like to go big or go home!). For the first time in a long time, I am looking forward to something that would normally cause me stress and potential humiliation. I am a little intimidated by the obstacle part, but I have my husband to help me push my overdeveloped bottom over the wood and rope walls.
I promise to blog all about it.
Thanks for reading one of my many memories to grace the social media world. Maybe this will inspire some people to counsel with their inner 6th grader and let them know that they survived and really, everything is okay!
Until next time, happy running!