I would look for any excuse. Forgot my gym clothes. Wore boots instead of sneakers. My eczema meant I was predisposed to asthma.
Anything not to run a mile for the Presidential Fitness Test in gym class.
I look back and laugh to myself. I barely weighed anything at the time. How hard could it have been to locomote myself 5280 feet? Certainly easier than now, where every galumphing step makes me acutely aware of just where I’m storing all that ice cream I’ve been eating lately.
Actually, now that I think about it, it wasn’t really the running I was avoiding. Well, okay, it was the running a little. Mostly it was where we were running it. I attended a city high school with a tiny school yard on its roof. There was no track anywhere to be found, and letting us loose in the surrounding neighborhood could result in any number of side trips to buy cigarettes or hook up with reprobates lurking outside the college across the street.
No, to keep things contained we would need to run around the parking lot. Just the west half of it, actually. Nine and a half times.
I like to think if they loosed us up and down Green Street I might not have minded as much, but the utter drudgery and the hurdling over mounds of trash bags was too much to bear. Some kids sat it out in protest, no doubt earning a firm note home to mom and dad. I protested, but I was and have ever remained averse to official forms of reprimand, so I would run.
Actually, now that I think back to my time, I was pretty fast.
I was doing just that, yesterday. Not running fast. Thinking about my time. Because I found myself in the drudgery of all drudgeries – running a mile on a treadmill without any music to run along too.
And why was I undertaking this Sisyphean task, you might wonder? Because I was taking the Presidential Fitness Test, along with three of my co-workers. We worked up a devilish little challenge for Q2 of 2013, and it started with timing ourselves on a mile jog.
Now, I had gotten pretty good at jogging by this time last year. Once, a single time, I managed to come within a hair of an 8:30 mile, which is as fast as these luscious Italian thighs should ever have to carry me over that distance. The past year has not been especially kind to my body and I, so that time is now far behind me. I had no illusions of matching it on my personal hamster wheel. No, this was a run for my life. Gasping and wincing and biting my lip and humming one of my own songs just to cut through the digital tick tock tick of the timer on the screen in front of me. I would defeat this electronic taskmaster and its 5280 feet of endlessly looping pavement. I would run that damned mile.
In that moment of sureness I had a feeling not unlike what people might refer to as someone walking on your grave, but in reverse. I knew at that very moment that somewhere in the continuum of time a version of me half of my age had been cajoled into taking nine and a half laps around the parking lot, and was hurdling over a trashbag with secret glee.
If you’ll excuse me, I’m due for another run.