I’ve decided to start a series on my blog called “Awesome Experiences and Mediocre Moments.” The posts as part of the series will be experiences from my life that are significant to me in some way. I don’t know how often I’ll post something new in the series–let’s just be laid back about it, okay? If the stories end up being an experience in boredom, I will discontinue the series with little or no notice! But then, how can you tell if you’re being boring? And, isn’t blogging the ultimate outlet for the self-obssessed, so do we ever find ourselves boring? But, that discussion is for another day.
So, here is installment #1: The Coach who made me HATE Running
I wish I were a runner. I mean, I dream about putting on a little tanktop and shorts with fancy running shoes, taking off down some desert road Forrest Gump style, the wind in my hair, my heart beating in perfect rhythm with the sound of my feet on the pavement. Unfortunately, when I actually do run I can’t hear my feet on the pavement over my extremely loud, scary sounding gasps for oxygen. I can run about a block before it’s all over. I think I have a mental block about it, and I can trace my running issues back to one coach. To protect her identity I’ll call her Coach X.
Now, Coach X had a notorious desire to punish kids though sports that was known far and wide. She was tough, a little mean, and had zero tolerance for non-athletic types. You can imagine where that left me on her list of least favorite students. I was very near the end, right behind the girl with the clubfoot and right ahead of the blonde on crutches. I was introduced to this coach on the first day of school in the fifth grade, when she arrived at PE sporting her short red shorts and extra white t-shirt, whistle dangling around her neck and pencil tucked behind her ear. She didn’t smile. She never smiled, and she turned little terms of endearment into sarcastic jabs, like this:
“Well, you’re never going to get in shape if you don’t bring your tennis shoes to class, sweetheart!”
“I’ll tell you one thing, darling, you are getting a zero for today, and on top of that you’re not getting rid of those extra pounds!” or
“Listen here, precious, you are going to run lines today until you vomit, and after that you’re going to run some more!”
There are too many stories about her to list here. She was THE girls’ coach at my school, so I had her every year from fifth to eighth grade. Let me just briefly guide you through my experiences with her. She gave a kid a nosebleed once while administering coproral punishment. I got a piece of glass in my foot one day during fifth grade and she demanded that I not cry. When she taught math (her second favorite way to torture people), questions from the class were considered an indication that we weren’t paying attention to her flawless instruction.
All of this background information leads me to the reason for my aversion to running. There are two issues, really. One is the fact that when I was in junior high this coach forced everyone to run track. That’s right, track. We’re talking individual events, in front of crowds of people. She carefully chose the heats for her best runners, and then just stuck the rest of us wherever there were spots. So, I was usually bringing up the rear (I mean, WAY bringing up the rear) in the fastest heats. I was the kind of runner who was trying to finish races while people were already walking across the track on the way to the concession stand. Picture 7th grade me, weaving around people, saying, “Excuse me, pardon me” as I try to get to the finish line. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad. But, it was bad. This was junior high humiliation at its finest. My poor parents were at every track meet, cheering me on while I crawled across the finish line.
The second issue revolves around one day in the seventh grade when my mother made a call to the coach, asking her to let me sit out of PE. I arrived, innocently enough, and was informed by the coach that my mother had called. Then she had me sit in the bleachers and gathered around all of the seventh and eighth grade girls and announced:
“I want all of you to know that because of Melissa Clark you are going to run for this entire hour. Get on the line.”
And she proceeded to run those poor girls until they were half dead while I sat mortified on the bleachers.
Is it any wonder that the thought of running puts me in a tizzy? Maybe my subconscious conjurs up some skewed picture of Coach X in my brain everytime I take off, and my body can’t handle the mental pressure.
But, it’s probably more likely that all of my slandering of Coach X here is just a jumbled and confused collection of memories from a kid’s perspective that have no bearing on who the lady actually was or how she conducted herself.
So, the next time I get in the mood to go for a run, I should try changing my perspective. “This one is for Coach X!” I should think to myself because she spent so many years “building my character.” She is probably still out there somewhere, teaching kids to hate sports. But, I bear no ill will. After all, it’s not like she made me hate shopping or going to amusement parks. Running I can do without, and when some great urge to run comes over me in the future, I can go to the backyard with my kids and run in circles until we get the giggles. No hot running outfit or fancy shoes or desire to win races required.