Sun 31 Jul 2011
Do you remember your first run? Did it go as you imagined? Mine was a total failure. I recount the experience here as a reminder that we all have to start from somewhere. What we do next with our perceived “failure” is the key to any future success.
It was September in 1975 and I was a senior at Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas. I was under much pressure at the time. I was overly responsible, a perfectionist and an over-achiever. I was working 25 to 30 hours per week as a bookkeeper in a jewelry store, carrying a full class load, traveling frequently with the speech and debate team and I was married. We were both full-time students and both worked but we barely had enough to live on. In those days, it was expected that the woman carry the burden of the household and being a career woman was rare. I resented the fact that my husband, Greg, refused to help around the house. We fought bitterly and he was verbally abusive. I suffered from anxiety attacks and had chronic sinuses trouble. I was wired all the time.
. . . . . . . . . . .
It was 4:10 when I turned into the drive leading to my apartment. My shirt was stuck to the car seat when I stepped out of the car onto the hardened dirt drive. Damn air conditioner. I turned the key in the lock and noticed a big roach scurry into the big crack on the front step. It felt like it was at least 100 degrees in there. I looked at the pile of books that Greg threw right smack in the middle of the room. Then I glared at the kitchen sink piled with dishes. I could see the pan with caked-on pasta sauce from where I stood and I heard a fly buzz by. Uhggg, it smelled like rotten milk. Greg was a slob and he was worthless around the house. I told him it was his turn to do the dishes. But no…after all he was a man.
Work was drudgery that day. Vera, my boss, insisted that the accounts receivable subledger balance to the penny to the general ledger. She made me nervous. All I can say is that my speed on the ten-key adding machine was blazing fast. My head hurt thinking of all the crap I had yet to deal with. I could feel the pressure and I rubbed my eyes. I couldn’t relax. I felt that old familiar anxious feeling like something bad was about to happen…
I turned and looked outside the front door to the track about 200 feet away. It looked inviting—like it was calling out to me. I wanted to run. I had not exercised since high school when I bought a 10-speed bike. Now I was a senior in college. Okay…why not.
I put on a pair of Reebok’s and shorts and ventured outside toward the track. I squinted into the sun. The air felt heavy and humid. I didn’t understand why the college took such great pride in its history— maintaining the first building constructed in the 1930’s which stood as a proud monument to the school—but utterly ignored the married student apartments and this track. It was overgrown with weeds and the little grass that was in the field was burnt by the sun.
I waded through the weeds and shooed the bugs from my face. I stepped out onto the dirt track and eyed the ruts and holes in the hardened dirt. I never saw anyone on this track. Bethel was a football school. It looked like bleachers once stood on the side, but it was obvious that years had passed since any events were held on this track.
I took my first few steps. So far so good. I smiled and quickened the pace as I jumped over the first crevice. This was fun. I can do this—no sweat. I lunged forward and started running like someone was chasing me. By the time I got half way around the track I was gasping. I couldn’t get any air. My pace slowed to a crawl and I focused on my breath. Breathe deep—breathe deep. I just couldn’t get enough air. When I got to the end of the first loop I was finally breathing.
I walked a few steps. The sweat was trickling down my forehead and my left eye was starting to sting. I squinted and pursed my lips as I stared down the track. Loop number 2. It was damn hot. I stepped over another hole in the track. I took a deep breath and I started running again. I took off like I was racing a 50 yard dash.
What was I thinking?
Halfway around the track I was sucking wind again and I slowed to a crawl. Now both eyes were stinging and I wiped my forehead with the end of my shirt. I thought I might pass out. I tripped in a hole in the track and I felt like crying. I was 100 yards from the end of my second loop. I started to walk again.
Pathetic, I thought. I don’t have time for this. Two loops around the track—that’s one-half of a mile. I was 21 years old and couldn’t even run one-half of a mile.