I hated gym class in high school.
In middle school, it was fun. We played games! We ran around! Sometimes we got to use that giant parachute even though we all pretended we were far too old and cool for it, but secretly we loved it!
But high school gym class? HATED it. Hated it with the fury of a toddler being carried unwillingly away from the playground. At least I usually managed to keep my tantrums in check.
It was structured and we had to play actual sports and even had to take periodic tests on the rules of said sports. Thank god we never covered football, or my GPA would’ve been toast.
I cringed every time we played, well, anything, because I was terrified of getting hit by the ball (I actually did get hit in the face with a lacrosse stick once. Ouch.) The one day I caught a fly ball (while hiding in the outfield, naturally) still stands as one of the proudest moments of my life. I was so shocked it landed in my glove that I didn’t even know what to do with it and barely processed my teammates’ bellowing “HERE HERE HERE THROW IT HERE THROW IT HERE NOW!!!!”
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was actually ok at running. Not initially, of course. We had to do that presidential fitness test quarterly and while I don’t remember what my time was for that first mile, I know I had to walk quite a bit of it. I huffed and puffed around the track, glowing red (a side effect of exercise that has faded a bit over time, but was awful in high school), hating every minute of it.
I do, however, remember my best time at the end of the year: 7 minutes, 30 seconds. A very respectable time. I almost threw up as I rounded that final turn, but I did it.
Oh, how I wish I could say that day was a turning point for me. That I realized I both enjoyed running and was not completely terrible at it, and a lifelong passion for fitness was born.
I tossed my sneakers into my backpack, said NEVER AGAIN, and went on my merry, fitness-free way.
Would now be a good time to mention that I legitimately thought marching band was a valid form of exercise? I’ll just let you process that for a minute.
Ok, moving on. Fast forward through the rest of high school, when I willingly went for a run maybe twice, occasionally did strength exercises with 3-pound weights (don’t want to get bulky! *facepalm*), and dabbled in yoga. I couldn’t stand not being good at something, so the concept of working on my fitness was baffling.
My boyfriend in college (now husband!) was very encouraging and coaxed me into running with him occasionally. It did not go well. Since I’d never really run before, I obviously had no endurance and couldn’t go further than half a mile (and that’s being generous!) without graaaaaaadually coasting to a wheezing, sweaty stop and dramatically flapping my arms while encouraging him to “just go on without me.”
And that sums up my entire college fitness experience.
But then, my friends, something wonderful happened, and that wonderful thing was…peer pressure. I had just started a job working as a receptionist at a financial firm, and my coworkers convinced me to join them for the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge, a 3.5 mile race through downtown Boston. Not wanting to look like a wimp, I allowed myself to be strong-armed into it.
I quickly realized the downside to this strategy: I’d actually have to, you know, run the race.
“Go big or go home” is basically my motto, so I bought some running shoes, an iPod, and threw myself headlong into training for this race. I would not be embarrassed. I would not have to walk. And, most importantly, I would not throw up. This was a serious concern of mine.
When asked about pace projections for the race, I sagely estimated that since I had been training at roughly a 10:00/mile pace, my game-day performance would probably be around 8:00/mile.
Of course that was completely ridiculous, but I didn’t know that. I don’t even remember what my pace ended up being, but I can tell you it was not 8:00/mile. Not even close.
I was content to retire from my running career after that single race. It was fun, sure, but running during the summer is haaaaaard, and it’s haaaaaawt outside, and I just want to go sit by the pool and read my boooooook.
But one of my friends had another idea. Run a half marathon with me, she said. You can totally do it, she said. It’ll be fun, she said. We can train together.
I said a little prayer (“Please, God, don’t let me drop dead on the course.”) and registered for the race. The prayer might have been laced with expletives as I contemplated what I was about to do.
Me, run a half marathon? No way.
NO FREAKIN WAY.
…..and I know you hate it when they say to be continued, but this is already super long! Come back tomorrow to hear about the actual race. Spoiler alert: I did not, in fact, die. Huzzah!