For those who may not have heard, I've been transferred to the radio station in Westlock, but my new place isn't going to be open for me to move into for another week. So, for the past few weeks, I've been commuting from Athabasca to Westlock everyday. Tonight, while on the drive home, I plugged my MP3 player into my car stereo and fired up the latest episode of Mike's podcast. One of Mike's newer passions in life is running, and in this episode, he was chatting with one of his running coaches. So, as I was driving off into the sunset, listing to Mike and his coach talk about running, my mind started to wander and it wasn't long before I was reflecting on my experiences with the sport of running. And, like most of my experiences in sports, it mostly takes place in junior high gym class.
I once talked to some of my friends to see if they had to go through the monthly ritual of the 12-minute run. The name explains it all: once a month, we'd have to run laps in the gym for 12 minutes straight. Usually, to warm up to it, we'd also do as many push-ups as we could in a minute, and as many sit-ups as we could do in a minute. But the centerpiece was that 12 minute run. One time I looked it up online to see if the 12-minute run had an actual purpose, or if it was just something the gym teachers made us do when dodgeball was going to require too much effort. Turns out it actually does serve a purpose...it's one of the few fitness tests that teachers can give to gauge a child's improvement. So it was just what you do in gym for an exam.
But still, it was that one thing once a month that I loathed. Being an nonathletic person for, well, ever, gym class was never my best class. And it was that one day a month where things seemed to get the most competitive. There was a big board on the gym wall that charted our progress and our personal bests, you see, so it quickly became a competition to see who could do the most laps. While the die hard jocks would always get numbers up in the 50s, I was usually languishing down there in the 20s. I'd run a bit, but walk for most of it. When the jocks lapped me they'd always take a moment to glance and smirk. The girls who had, *ahem*, female troubles, and were excused from the exercise, would usually commandeer the gym's sound system and crank up whatever cassettes they had in their Walkmans. So it all played out to the bubblegum pop of the late-80s/early-90s.
But as the school year went on, something strange started happening every month, as I looked at that board and charted my progress. I was getting better. I was able to do more laps. I was able to run longer without taking a break by walking. I'll never forget the first time I hit 30 laps. My teacher made a big deal about 30 laps, because that was equal to 1 mile. Even more momentous was the first time I was able to run for the whole 12 minutes without walking. I was enthralled. I even remember which late-80s pop gem was playing on the gym's loudspeakers when the buzzer went off and 12 minutes was up.
Suddenly, the sideways smirks of the jocks didn't sting so much. I did it. I finally went for 12 minutes. I went the distance, literally and figuratively. For pretty much the only time in gym class, I felt like I accomplished something.
Don't get me wrong, though. I still hated the 12-minute run with a passion. My vision of Hell is still doing laps in the gym for infinity while New Kids on the Block plays on an endless loop and the Devil is a young, 20-something woman fresh out of teacher college who's just a little too perky and encouraging. Still, though, if you can go through hell and manage to accomplish something...you feel good.
Well, I'm settling into middle age quite nicely, and now that I'm a grown up and don't have to do anything that I don't want to do, I've fully embraced my nonathletic ways. But I do love to walk. I'd spend my afternoons just roaming around Athabasca. Saturday mornings, I'd even make a weekly trek from Canadian Tire to Athabasca University and back. And for the past couple of years, I'd start thinking, "Ya know, if I did this a little faster, I'd be running."
Trying to do it a little faster might be key as I get ready to move to Westlock. One of the great things about Athabasca is all the hills. A brisk walk is enough to get you to work up a sweat. But Westlock...it's very flat. More effort is going to be needed to get the heart rate up. But I've already read a few warnings online. Running is not something you can start overnight. You can't just jump off the couch and say, "I'm going to run 10K today!" You won't make it and you'll feel crappy and you'll quit. So, you have to ease yourself into it. Much like the 12 minute run of old. Just do as much as you can, and then start walking. And then run again. Just keep doing that on a regular basis, and before you know it, you're going for the whole 12-minutes.
At least, I think that's how it works. I don't think I'll go as hardcore as Mike and get me a coach and start training for marathons and such, but just go a little faster. When you put it like that, it doesn't seem to hard.