You Can’t Go Home Again

I feel so fortunate running has become an important part of my life. Lacing up and putting in five or six miles, a frightening prospect only a year or so ago, comes naturally to me on most days, and I feel confident I could knock out a half marathon distance if so challenged.

But it hasn’t always been like this for me.

Recently I visited my hometown of Petaluma, California (You can pet a dog, and you can pet a cat, but you can’t, well, you can imagine the rest). In the wave of nostalgia which sometimes washes over me when I pass near my former elementary school I was reminded of the grueling Physical Education classes I endured there as a lad and how they contributed to my long-harbored disdain of running. Back in the day once a week during P.E., after what seemed like hours of performing jumping jacks and windmills, we’d be forced to run around the entire campus. Of course, we objected, but our entreaties were met with high-pitched cackles and snorts of derision from our P.E. teachers.

At least that’s how I remember it.

So, off we would go-the popular kids, the geeks, the halt, and the lame alike-our mini-strides carrying us on a circumnavigation of the school grounds. In those days we didn’t have GPS watches to help us determine routes and distances, but I was certain that loop around the school was three or four miles long, and by the time we finished that run we were almost too tired to spend the rest of the class playing kickball or whiffle ball. Now, I realize childhood memories are not entirely accurate, so I’ve since gone back and used sophisticated web-based tools to calculate the exact distance we ran during those weekly torture sessions. Behold the horror:

Route of the St. Vincent Elementary School Weekly Death March
Route of the St. Vincent Elementary School Weekly Death March

It seems a lousy quarter of a mile was enough to get me to swear off running as a form of exercise for most of my life. Of course, you can’t compare the little kid me with the big kid me. But keep in mind back then I probably ran ten miles a day playing soccer, touch football, and hide-and-seek, and I never had any problem. Run a quarter mile around the school for P.E. though? Absolute torture.

I’m happy I’ve outgrown most of my childhood hang-ups about running. Although, to this day, I still don’t like running around tracks.

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2 thoughts on “You Can’t Go Home Again

  1. Across the bay at Montera Junior HS, coach Ray observed that although, if it meant moving a ball of any size or shape from one place to another, I would fail miserably, nevertheless I showed a certain degree of stamina. I was encouraged to try out for the cross country team. The Bataan Death March that we had to endure was a whopping 0.6 miles! More than twice your grueling quarter. Still, we were older… junior high school; so much more cachet than middle school.

  2. Love your story. A friend of mine encouraged me to try cross country in high school, but one fartlek, and I was done.

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