The high school from where I graduated has always had a cross country team that does daily runs in the area around the school. There are many times I have seen them running in the heat of summer, as I sat safe from the sweltering temperatures in my air-conditioned car, and I’ve thought they were just as crazy as the people in the office park where I work, who go jogging around the parking lots during their lunch hours.
LUNCH HOURS! I mean, really? How do you do that kind of workout and not have to spend an extra hour scrubbing the funk that has to be emanating from your skin? And don’t even tell me they go back to work without taking a shower because… da-yum… that’s just gross. I would get fired if I did something like that.
Anyhoo, today I had a change of heart toward one of these high school runners. A young girl was trailing the pack of stick thin girls. She wasn’t dead last, but she was running by herself. What did me in was the fact that she was the only chubby one of the group — plugging along… in the rain… wearing a sports bra that probably wasn’t quite strong enough for her — and I had this flashback to my 8th grade Field Day. Gawd, how I hated Field Days. Always between 10 and 20 pounds overweight, I was never a sprinter, and these dreaded events never failed to put those athletic weaknesses in the spotlight.
For this particular field day, we had to sign up for different events, and we HAD to sign up for at least one. I looked for the shortest race, but by the time I got to the sign-up sheet, the 100-yard dash was taken, as was the 110 relay. But I noticed there was a 220, and I thought, “Oh, okay, another relay.” It wasn’t until the day of the event that I realized that it wasn’t a relay. I had to run 220 YARDS! 220 YARDS! Who DOES that to a 15-year-old??? Bunch of sadists…
Not only that, but in the first heat round, I got paired with THE FASTEST GIRL IN THE COUNTY. Seriously, they should have made her pee in a cup. When the race started, I was the moped and she was the sports car — not even in third gear and her blond ponytail was a blur. That was the longest 220 yards of my life — running in the burning sun of a late May afternoon, cheeks burning even hotter with embarassment about my poor performance, about my appearance, about my vulnerabilities.
All that came back in an instant when I saw this courageous girl running in the rain. I wanted to ride (not run, though) along side of her and cheer her on, but the way some people can be cruel these days she probably would have thought I was teasing her. So here I give the girl props for doing something I was too afraid to do back then. She doesn’t have to break the tape to be the winner. She’s awesome in my book.