I signed up for a 5K. I know, I know, it’s not a very long race, and I also know that I am going to run it very slowly. But that is not the point.
My athletic career has been neither storied nor consistent. My fitness endeavors have been comprised of playing on high school teams (where I kept benches toasty) and subsequent sporadic gym memberships. As I think about it, many of the moments that I look back on as the most cringe-inducing of my teen years involved athletics …
I once had a basketball coach put me in for the last 44 seconds of a game. 44 SECONDS! The score was already so lopsided in my team’s favor, he likely assumed that I would not have time to mess things up. I also did not have time to dribble, pass or shoot either.
Then there was the mile test. In 9th grade, to pass gym class all the students in my year had to run at least a 10 minute mile. On the day of the test, my class arrived at the crunchy cinder track that looped a quarter-mile around a hilltop field above the school. We lined up, and, with the click of Mrs. H’s stop watch, off we went. To my delight a fellow 9th grader (who I had an epic crush on) ran with me for the first lap and a half. After finishing the run below the required time, I was sweaty but elated … until I signed my time into the class chart. As I wrote down my time, I overheard the teacher telling the boy who had run with me, that he could have made really great time had he not jogged slowly at first. No one noticed that his jogging pace was equivalent to my running pace – and no one cared – but I was silently mortified.
It should be said, that I did have fun playing sports as a kid, but I with several very athletically gifted friends, it was hard to feel like I was supposed to be out on the court or the field. Sports intimidated me.
Sports still intimidate me. Every time I see a friend post a photo of themselves smiling in a race bib, or report a mile time online, I have the same thought “Wow, I couldn’t do that.” I’ve always had this weird conviction that being extremely fit correlates to other mythical attributes, like having a fully organized closet, or waking up naturally at 5am. I assumed that going out for your office soft ball team, or being able to run an 8 minute mile with a timed chip in your shoe, is a sign that other aspects of your life are organized, punctual and put-together. People who go running every day for fun, who do regular pilates or do everyone’s new favorite, crossfit, kind of scare me.
Recently, I realized that I have clung to this idea and used it as an excuse, not only to be half-hearted in my gym efforts, but to avoid trying new things. For the record, my new interest in fitness has nothing to do with how I look, in fact I like my appearance (most days), but I have always described myself as un-athletic and, frankly, I’m tired of it. I am a little clumsy, a little slow and I still curl into a ball and scream “No!” when someone tries to toss me a set of keys/remote/anything, but while my high school basketball court was for athletes, the gym is for everyone. Even me.
…Who knows, maybe a 10K will be next?