Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The First One

From the Red Dress Club...
This week's memoir prompt was to write something about which you're proud of yourself.  700-word limit.
I’ve never been what you’d call a particularly gifted athlete.  Well, let me rephrase that to better resemble the truth...I’ve never been an athlete at all, gifted or otherwise.
Oh sure, I was on sports teams when I was younger...softball, basketball, and volleyball.  Notice I didn’t say I played on these teams...I only said that I was on them.  I rode my share of pine back in the day, that’s for sure, particularly the older I got and the more important winning became.  In high school sports, no one cares if “everyone plays.”  The kids who can win the game are the ones who get to play the game.   
I was okay with that.  Being on the team was enough for me; I didn’t care that I didn’t get to play much.  In fact, I’ll never forget the time my basketball coach wanted to start me.  You would think I would have been thrilled.  However, I was so terrified that I turned to the girl next to me and said, “Oh, coach, wouldn’t you rather start Debbie?”  “Nope,” he said, “in you go.” 
We must have been playing a horrible team for him to consider starting me...either that or we were beyond any hope of any type of championship so it didn’t matter who played.  In any event, I don’t remember much except being terrified.  I couldn’t tell you who won that game or how I played; the only thing I remember is trying to get my coach to start Debbie instead of me!
I muddled through a few years of basketball...ditto for volleyball and softball.  Did I mention the time my softball coach told me I’d have a much better chance at hitting the ball if I kept my eyes open?  Who knew?!   Despite my lack of athletic prowess, I enjoyed being on those teams. 
Fast forward 20 years to the rapidly-approaching date of my 20th high school reunion.  Like everyone else, I wanted to look my best.  I’d done a pretty good job of not letting myself go, but losing a few pounds and toning up a bit certainly wasn’t a bad idea.
At that time I was too cheap to join a gym and, as is pretty much my MO, I had completely procrastinated losing those few pounds and toning up that layer of marshmallow fluff, so I decided to try running.  It seemed like the most bang for my buck...all I needed was a pair of running shoes, even better was that I could do it at my convenience and that I could burn a decent amount of calories in a short amount of time. 
There was a brand-new park in my area at that time with a mile-and-a-quarter path around it.  Spaced at about one-minute intervals were light posts; I literally ran from one light post to the next, each time increasing light posts until I was about halfway around the path.  A friend of mine said that if I was successfully getting halfway around then I was ready to go the whole distance...without stopping!
She said, “Just keep running...no matter how slow you go, don’t stop.”  I kept her voice in my head as I approached the halfway mark.  A whole mile seemed impossible.  Along with her voice, my own voice was saying, “Just put one foot in front of the other...now put another one, and another, you can do this...one slow step at a time...you CAN do this.”  And guess what?  I did it!  I was so thrilled I wanted to shout from the proverbial rooftops...”I just ran a mile...I just ran a mile!”
It seems silly now...one mile, big deal, but that’s only because I stuck with it...that’s only because that one joyful mile was countless 5K’s ago, two 10-mile races ago, and even one half marathon ago.  Despite successfully running these other races...despite setting, and accomplishing, new running goals, that first mile is the one I am most proud of...that first mile is the one I keep in my mind when I’m having a bad day or when I’m remembering all of the athletic failures of my past...that first mile, and the ones that have followed, are mine and mine alone. 


  1. I loved your reflection back to school setting up your lack of athletic skills, and in turn your path to running. I especially liked this sentence "...that’s only because that one joyful mile was countless 5K’s ago, two 10-mile races ago, and even one half marathon ago." It truly seems that each journey starts with a single step, or in your case a single mile!

  2. *applause*

    This is one of the rare cases where "the first one" can actually be a good thing.

  3. Thank you all for the feedback. It is very much appreciated. Jackie, the "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" is posted in my classroom and is my mantra!
    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Thanks for stopping by. I hope you come back!