The memory is vivid in my mind. The searing pain in my ankle, the tears and humiliation as I practically collapsed after my first lap around the track. It was early in 1986. I was in 6th grade. I had just moved to California. Back home gym had been kick ball and hula hoops. At my new school P.E. was serious business.
I hated running ever since that day, and the subsequent required runs in Jr High. We ran a timed 440, 880, and mile at least twice every quarter. We were graded on our base time, plus our improvement. But I don't remember ever being taught how to run, or build up to running the mile. The warm-ups consisted of me uncoordinatedly trying to follow some 8th graders as they led a series of exercises w/o instruction.
The recurring pain in my ankle, and wanting to die and never ever run again after the mile, are my strongest impressions of running. My parents did take me to a Dr. about my ankle. He took an x-ray, said he couldn't see anything wrong. But he told me "Some people aren't built to run." I latched on to that as my excuse for the next 20+ years. "I just wasn't built to run."
As I have discovered the joy of running I look back on that time w/ a mix of shock, amusement, and disgust. Shock that we were just expected to run and improve our running with no training, and no instruction. Amusement that I would be labeled "Not built for running." With my long legs, and (at the time) thin body, I was built just right for running. But what most disgusts me is that neither the gym teacher nor orthopedic surgeon thought to suggest maybe I needed to stretch before I ran. And that, plus a few ankle strengthening exercises, could put an end to that burning stabbing pain.
I don't tend to spend a lot of time on regrets. I briefly wonder what it would be like to have learned to run properly, maybe I could have... But in high-school and college I enjoyed my role as brainy academic non-athlete. So enough of looking back, I will rejoice that I found running, that I got a second chance to find my inner athlete. I will reclaim those years, by proving how cool it is to be in better shape at age 36 than at age 26 or even 16. And I have finally triumphed over Jr High P.E. class!