I wish I could run. Effortlessly. With joy. Graceful gliding on sidewalk. Easy breath. Confident stride. Smile of bliss crossing my face.
But I can’t run. When I try, it’s more like a shuffle. It’s tough. Demoralizing. Choppy. With the wheeze of asthmatic lungs. Insecure. Grimace of agony pinching my face.
To summarize: it isn’t pretty.
And, yet, I ran track in high school. I signed up my freshman year for two reasons.
1). My big sister told me to.
2). It was the only co-ed sport at my school.
Turns out, these were foolish reasons for running track. Because…
1). My big sister wasn’t my Mom. Why did I feel like I had to obey this demand? (Sorry, Betsy)
2). The boys were less than impressed by my daily asthma attacks.
Not to mention, I hated running. I’m not a competitive person. Track shorts weren’t incredibly flattering (on me, at least).
Being forced each day to participate in torture just wasn’t my thing.
So, I didn’t try.
My motto became, “Hey, somebody’s gotta lose. Might as well be me”.
Not exactly a great attitude.
Now, I attended a small Christian school. We (I use the word “we” very loosely here…the word “they” meaning my teammates would be far more accurate) destroyed the competition at the Christian school invitational meets.
Those kids would shake in their boots when they saw us coming. (Again, “us” meaning “my teammates”)
However, my freshman year, my school joined a different athletic association. Tougher. More competitive. Full of (shudder) public schools.
Schools that actually had a budget for their track team.
We were almost always the only Christian school at the meets. And our jerseys made sure everybody knew who we were.
“CHRISTIAN” printed in bold letters across our chests.
Suddenly we were destroyed (this “we” is all inclusive). Those schools had us shaking in our cute little spikes.
I distinctly remember one invitational. The track for this meet was bigger than my entire school. The stands packed full of fans. Lots and lots of them. More than the student body of my school. Including the elementary kids.
Things weren’t looking so good for me.
Time for my event. The 800 meter run. Now, if you don’t know anything about track, the 800 is three minutes of sprinting. Or, in my case, four or five minutes of shuffling. And that was when I was at my peak physical condition.
The 800 is for champs. Masochists. Real athletes.
It is not right for flirty girls. Asthmatics. People who don’t care about winning.
That, folks, was not a good event for me.
But, hey, I got to hang out with guys.
Yeah. Still not worth it.
Anyway, that day, I got myself up to the starting line. Breathed deep in hopes of settling my nerves. I wasn’t nervous about losing. No. Nothing like that. I just didn’t want to scream when the gun shot to start the race.
I readied myself. Yelped when the gun popped. Ran. Or jogged. Okay. Staggered.
Lap one. I lagged. Heard my coach yelling.
“Go faster, Susie!”
Had I been able to breathe, I would have screamed, “I AM! GET OFF MY BACK!”
Lap two. Way behind. The first place runner passed me. Then the second. Third. And so on.
By the time I was on meter 600, the race was done.
Except for me.
I wanted to quit.
“Come on, Christian!” someone yelled from the stands.
Then another, “You can finish, Christian!”
The fans in the stands stood. Clapped their hands. Cheered me on.
“Hey, Christian, don’t give up!”
“Almost there, Christian!”
100 more meters. My eyes filled with tears of pain and embarrassment and love.
“You got this, Christian!”
I lifted my knees a bit higher. Pushed off the track with the spikes on my feet. Pumped my arms. Set determination in my face.
Finished that race.
“You did it, Christian!”
“Good job, Christian!”
They cheered. For me. Louder than for the girl who came in first.
They cheered for the little Christian girl who never won a race. Not even one.
And they called out my name.
No. They called out my real name.
The name I imagine the great cloud of witnesses calls when they cheer for us.
To finish the race.
To keep going.
To never give up.
To run with joy for the prize.
Susie, I have to tell you how much I enjoy your posts. They make me laugh and think and encourage me. Like this latest post. Love it. Thank you for sharing your gift with us.
Oh, thank you, Rebecca. You are such an encouraging friend to me. I truly appreciate you.
Yep, that’s about the way it is for real. Running with our handicaps. Don’t matter if we win or not, but we’re sure going to finish. Because he’s right there with us, cheering us on, encouraging us, reminding us how wonderful it’s going to be after the race is all over and we’re sitting at the banquet table sharing in the joy that is being in his presence.
Thanks, Susie! That was fantastic! (And I can sure relate to the asthma thing…)
Thank you, Rob. You are so right.
And maybe in heaven we’ll be able to go for a jog together. 🙂
This, this one lifted me up. Just what I needed today.
I’m so glad, Jessie. Love to you!
I love this. I tried out for track. Yeah…not a runner. Did it because my best friend did it. She LOVED to run. I wanted to know why. Never did find out. As we left the school for a long try-out run around the neighborhood, I was suddenly very alone, looking at everyone else’s shrinking backs. And then, all that was left was me and my panting, tight, burning asthmatic chest. As I came into ‘home’, the only one’s left at the school were my best friend and the coach. She gave me a sweet smile and said, “You know, maybe running isn’t your sport.” I couldn’t have agreed more. Sometimes we have to find out what we’re made of…I wasn’t a runner. Glad you had a better experience!
Oh…most track meets were lessons in humility for me.
But now we’ve got books coming out. I guess that’s a good consolation, right? 😉
Exactly! That’s what we’re made of. The stuff that can make you re-write and re-work your piece 100 times just to make sure it’s ‘just right’. Not everyone can do THAT! 😉
It’s a different sort of marathon.
I LOVED this!!! So beautifully put. Well done!! Love it that your shirt said “Christian”, that’s gold.
I feel your pain – not in running, I’m a quite good runner, but in anything that involves team sports, returning a ball, catching a ball, making sure a ball goes in any kind of hoop…yeah. Not my thing. Maybe in Heaven.
Sometimes though, when I take my smallest to Kindergym, I still give it a go…when none of the other parents are looking. I’m still bad, but I’m taller now, and sometimes I actually get it. 🙂
As I said to April a few comments up, we’re writers. We don’t need a whole bunch of hand-eye coordination! 🙂
Thanks for the encouragement, Meg!
You are a superb writer. I always enjoy reading your work and it usually makes me long for our college days a bit. Very inspiring. I am so going to use the “I knew her when…!” 😉
Thank you, Heather. I truly look back on our creative writing classes as a highlight from the old college days. 🙂 Miss you, my friend.
Again with the tears. *sigh* Please tell me your book will come with a box of tissues. (Oh. Beautifully written, by the way.) 🙂
Hey…that’s a genius marketing idea!!! 🙂
Thanks, Dear Kristi.
I am with you in the “so not a runner” club. I ran cross country for three years. Never really liked it. Never really excelled. But I kept at it because my coach was one of the most inspiring men I’ve ever met. He taught us a saying that we all had to recite when we were feeling down. “I am a unique individual. Created by God, and filled with His potential.” He never cared where we finished, so long as we reached deep within ourselves toward that potential. When he took a job elsewhere, that’s when my hatred of running took over, LOL, and I decided band was quite enough, thank you very much.
Awesome post as always, Susie!
I had a few coaches who were inspiring. So worth the hard work and asthma attacks. 🙂 Thank you for sharing that story, Roseanna.
I did the school play instead of track. WAY more fun!