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  • Writer's pictureJoy Earle

Who Knew a Run was Fun?

I had just laced up my shoes when I heard someone across the locker room give me a shout out, “Hey, Joy, we need to run a 5K sometime. It would be fun!”

This was not a welcome invitation; it was that moment of realization that they do not know you don’t run, you emotionally run from running, and although you may “look” fit you are not a runner — and never will be.

“I would love to at some point, just let me know!” I lied.

In the 1960s the President of the United States oversaw the testing of all school-age children as to their physical fitness. Every year those of us forced to participate would have rather gone to the dentist.

An overweight 9 year-old girl with absolutely no desire to do much of anything but rollerskate and dream of dessert — that was me. The test consisted of timed sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups and what would be my demise … the long run. The dreaded long run was one mile and yours truly was always last. I would cross the finish line well after the others, the PE teacher would click her stop watch, and call out my time for the world to hear. It was total and complete humiliation. Yes, I knew what my PE teacher knew: I would never be a runner, not ever.

I was, however, always intrigued by the invitations for a “Fun Run,” which in itself is an oxymoron. I was not a runner, or was I?

I had to try, so I jogged. I didn’t jog too far, but I did jog. Soon after this, I jogged again, which led to a few more laps around the track. I completed 2 miles and was not vomiting or crying for my mommy — I may just be running. I would run for fun; at least I would try.

I devised a plan and signed up for a race one county over, that way no participants or bystanders in the crowd would know me, in case of injury or death from embarrassment.

Race day was upon me and on my way out the door I confessed to my husband that I was not going to Walmart, but to run a race and he was my emergency contact; poor guy had no clue. In a flash I was standing at the starting line with a crowd of runners who looked like real athletes. I was worried. The pounding in my ears was my heart beat and suddenly I wasn’t sure I had feeling in my upper body. The starter gun sounded and we were let loose like a herd of cattle out of the gate. The morning air had a hint of fresh cut grass in it and the lily white clouds against that clear blue sky above me gave me a feeling of hope. I was headed past the 2 mile marker when I knew I was going to finish, linguine legs and all. I was going to finish —with people behind me! I crossed the finish line, strangers cheered, and I cried. My tears spilled out and down over the bib with number 285 etched across the front. I did it! I confess that my doubts dissolved into determination and there now hangs a succession of bibs on my refrigerator door. This one day, this experience, eclipsed the memory of fourth grade field day. I am a runner.

Should I tell the President?

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