Would you like to hear a pitiful story from my early high school years? Yes? Okay, then. Let me just flip through the many, many possible selections. Ah, here we are: Brenna vs. Sports.
Once upon a time I was a little girl who loved to tap dance. I could leap-shuffle-hop with the best of them. Aside from the fact that I had a lot of trouble distinguishing my left turns from my right (see: Brenna vs. Directions) I managed to stay near the top of the pack. I liked the leotards and tights. I loved pounding on the wood floor with my heavy taps. I liked watching my movements in the big mirrors that lined the room. The part that I did not like was my teacher and her harsh voice (see: Brenna vs. Scary Adults). So by age 10 I had dropped dance and taken up art, where my sweet and gentle fairy-loving teacher would praise every stroke of my brush.
While all of my friends were starting their careers in club soccer and volleyball, I was building fairy treasure chests out of old match boxes. This was completely fine with me. I rode my bike and roller bladed with the neighborhood kids and walked the dog every day. I was active, just utterly uninterested in sports. We were a family of three girls, and the only sports I ever saw my dad watch were golf (aka “naptime”) and the occasional game of football.
But then came high school. Sports were now mandatory. I quickly learned in the first weeks of my freshman year that P.E. in high school is only for losers and stoners. Even the teachers seemed to be hating life, just waiting until the end of the day when they could go coach their real stars. I somehow managed to convince my P.E. teacher that I could replace all activities with long walks. So I found a couple girls who shared my disdain for basketball and tennis, and we’d simply spend the period walking around the field and talking. Public education at its finest.
But after one semester, I was over it. I wanted to take up a sport. I didn’t care which sport, I just wanted out. My selection criteria was simple. I needed something that 1.) required no prior knowledge or experience, and 2.) that my friends were also doing. In my mind this narrowed the field to two options: tennis and track. And then I tried to practice playing tennis with my dad. Track it is!
And so I practiced running for the first time in my life. I had run around, sure. But I had never “run.” After a few time trials my dad and I realized that I wasn’t fast, not in the least, but my stamina was fairly good. Distance running it is! I tried out, and made the team–just like every single other person who tried out. And to my great surprise, I loved it.
I was a bit daunted by this world of athletics that seemed to have all these rules and customs that I had never learned. How did they all know what kind of socks to wear? And what kind of running shoes? And what kind of food to bring to the pre-race potluck. But I still felt proud to be a part of something. Track is a great first sport, because my personal failures didn’t matter so much to the team as a whole. I loved sitting around at track meets eating snacks and talking with my friends. Girls would line up for me to french braid their hair. One of the schools we would race at three times a season was right on the beach, so after our events we would change into our bathing suits and lay by the ocean. Clearly I was in it for all the right reasons. But even the running part wasn’t so bad. It turns out you improve very quickly when you start from a base of “has never owned running shoes.”
My goodness, I did not expect for this story to have so much build up. So, the season is coming to a close. We only have a few meets left, and people are starting to drop out for illness/injury reasons. This is how I find myself on the starting line surrounded by girls who are much, much faster than me. Somehow all of the JV girls on our team are out on the same day, except for me. Not only that, this is a small meet, meaning they are having the Varsity and the JV girls run together. I feel sick from nerves as I size up the girls from the other team. “It doesn’t matter,” I think, “All I have to do is get through the race.”
The gun goes off, and we start. Rounding the first lap, I’m keeping up. But then I am not. It’s quickly apparent as we settle into our paces that everyone in this race has me easily beat. I breathe and focus on staying close to the pack. The stadium is packed on one side, the side with a huge concrete wall of bleachers. But the far side of the stadium, with the rickety metal bleachers, is empty except for a group of punk skater boys. I round the first turn of the second lap, quickly falling further and further behind. And then, as I go into the straightaway, I hear a voice yelling at me, “You! Are! In! LAST!” Then it’s the whole group, hollering, “You’re in LAST! LAST place!”And so they continued every lap.
My goodness, this story is depressing. I cried through the rest of the race, which made breathing rather difficult. Even so, I managed to P.R.
I thought about this story while I was running this past weekend. My sister and I are training for a half marathon in July, and the run lengths are starting to feel a little absurd. It felt like the cute ending of made for tv movie: here I am, thinking about that one time when those rowdy teenagers were mean to me on a run, while I’m on the kind of run that challenges my perceived athletic boundaries. But there it is. It’s fun to run far. It is the one and only sport I can do and it makes me feel good.
And those delinquents are probably in jail. Right?
*Matt titled this post.