Until this week, I hadn't run since I was 17 years old. At times it is hard to imagine, but I used to be an athlete. In high school I played volleyball, basketball, softball, and ran track. Yeah, I know. In retrospect this was not the right identity for me, not really. I prolly should have been in theatre or student government. I did a little of that stuff, but not nearly enough. Playing sports happened for two reasons. The first, because my dad was an athlete and a coach, and I desperately wanted him to like me, which he didn't. The second was because I was fast, really fast.
In elementary school, we would have a school-wide track meet every spring. The whole school would go out to the track-and-field area and watch races and track events all day. The high school would send students to volunteer as starters and judges. It was a big deal The events themselves were for 4th-8th graders only, but everyone would watch. For many years, my brother and I were the fastest runners in school. We were minor celebrities. Kids would line up to watch our races. They would point to us and say things like, "That is Katherine Frye, she is the fastest girl in school." and " Yeah, the only one who can beat her is her brother." I was faster than most of the boys and for a very short time I was faster than my older brother, but that was short-lived.
I loved to run. I loved it. In the days leading up to the big school meet I would go outside and "train." Of course, even though my dad was coach, I had no idea what it meant to train, so really, I would just yell "go" and then run across the meadow as fast as I could. I didn't care about distances. I would just run fast. Stop. Then turn around and sprint back to where I started. Head up running like an idiot. Mouth open. Arms pumping.
I hurt my knee playing flag football for the powder puff game during homecoming week when I was 16. I was the quarterback and the middle linebacker. The "stud" positions. I was injured when I chose to keep the ball instead of handing it off. I kept it because I wanted to run. I was tearing down the sideline headed for the goal line when I tried to jump over a girl and landed awkwardly. That was it. After that, I had to be cautious. I still played sports, but the running was different. It was careful. No more abandon. I injured my knee twice in high school badly enough to need two surgeries. I spent 45% of my high school days on crutches and a long 6-months in a full leg cast that spanned from hip to toe. I have had another surgery since, and need another, but without health insurance it will just have to wait.
I know exactly what day I would return to if I could go back. I would go back to the last Spring track meet of my 8th grade year. A teacher encouraged me to run a longer race than I was used to. I don't remember the length, but in memory even a mile seemed far to me then. I didn't want to do it. I wanted to save myself for the sprints. I didn't want to be tired. But, I am a middle-child who has always craved approval, so I said yes. I made my way to the start and waited. I didn't stretch. I didn't even take off my black hooded sweatshirt. It wasn't a sprint so there was no starting gun. A teacher just said, "go," I don't think she even yelled it. I ran for about half a lap and didn't want to run anymore. So, I veered off the course and ran straight into the open door of the back of the gym and into the bathroom. I hid until the race was over then I trotted out and said that I had suddenly gotten sick. Really, I just didn't want to do it and didn't know how to say no. Now, these two things have haunted me. Illness and an inability to be true to myself. I somehow feel like if I could go back to that moment I could either say no, I don't want to do that. Or, finish the race. And somehow, my life would be different. Better.
I ran for the first time since I was 17 years old this week. It wasn't fast. It was careful and plodding. But it was running. It felt so good that I just keep thinking about it. The weather has been sketchy so my workouts have been inside since then, but I just keep thinking about that half mile. It wasn't shuffling. It wasn't speed walking. It was running. And it felt damn good. I cannot help but think that I have signed up for this upcoming 12K in order to run in a race again. To get a new start, and a perhaps even a new finish.
While the Sun Shines
2 years ago