Some random at the gym asked me this question last week. I gave him my quick and easy answer, but I had some time to ponder this question a little more. The reason for the quick and easy answer was due to us changing in the locker room. Most folks know that I’m NOT a locker room chatter.
When it comes to the locker room, I’m an in and out kinda guy.
High School Years:
In high school, I was an avid runner. Ok, avid may be a bit of a stretch, but I was a slightly above average long-distance runner in track and cross country. Actually, I started my short-lived career as a sprinter in track and field. However, I was not very good at that. As a matter of fact, I pretty much sucked. We had a fairly medium sized track team, and the coach of the sprinters more or less provided support to the superstar guys and the pretty young women on the team. Clearly, I did not fit into either category. Technically, I was the only eighth-grader on the team at the time, so that was another strike against me. Side note: My high school used to have a middle school component to it. When it moved to another city, they decided to do away with the middle school, once the eighth graders finished. That was “great” because we were at the bottom of the totem pole for two years in a row – 1st as eighth graders, then as freshmen.
One practice, the long distance coach pulled me aside and asked if I wanted to do long distance. Now, feels so weird to say long distance because long distance for track and field was the 800 m, 1600 m, and 3200 m distances. He asked me this, not because he saw amazing potential in me, but did not think it was right that the other coach ignored most of his athletes. I have a feeling that there were other things too. I was kind of sad that I had to move the long-distance side of the team, but I did what I did what I had to do. I probably would have gotten cut from the team had I stayed with the sprinters.
Ok, I was not sad that I could not cut it as a sprinter, I was a little sad that I was no longer a part of a specific community. My high school, technically I was in middle school at the time, was made up of 1-3% African Americans. Pretty much 90% of the time, I was the only black person in my class. That isolation increased, as I started to take more advanced classes in high school. *I still miss AP Latin every now and then.* I know many folks will ask “why do you have to bring race into it?”
- First, *eyeroll*.
- Second, learning who you are is hard enough as a teenager. It becomes more difficult if you are a minority teenager. One key example was Thursday night TV shows. Martin vs Friends; Living Single vs Seinfeld; NY Undercover vs ER, etc.
Having to leave the sprinters, which were comprised of many of the black and latin students from my high school and coached by a black man (maybe he was biracial), felt a bit like I was being rejected from my community.
Ok, back to the damn story. As a long distance runner, I really thrived under the guidance of the coach and the older athletes. Actually, the long-distance runners, most of whom did NOT look like me, were nicer and more supportive the damn sprinters, who did look like me.
Anyway, I went on to run track and cross country for the rest of high school. I found that I liked cross country more than track because there was a change of scenery (running through forests, trails and deer poop) at every meet. Also, the members of the long-distance component of the team were a little more relaxed than the sprinters.
Wow, the high school part was kind of long.
years year Week:
Since I ran track and cross country in high school, it was pretty much assumed that I would do it in college. I already had an academic scholarship to attend my college (also, my mom did not want me to be a college athlete), so running cross country would be more of a hobby. Yeah, that did not pan out very well. You know how I’m always complaining about the heat? Could you imagine me running in New Orleans with HEAT AND HUMIDITY? Because it always was so hot and humid, cross country practice started around 5:30 AM. Waaaaait, I’m a college student and I’m expected to wake up super early? Yeah, I’m gonna pass.
Basically, I was on my college’s cross country team for about 8 days. I do not think that I ran for leisure at all in college. Wait, I don’t think that I exercised at all in college. I was lucky enough to remain skinny during my college years with minimal effort. Actually . . . I was a nerd in college, so I really did not drink until my junior year. I think that kept me from gaining the freshman 15.
Jumping to 2011:
Ok, fast forward to post-graduate school life. Actually, let’s spend a quick moment in graduate school. During grad school, I was really into cycling. I did a couple of century tours and cycling was my preferred mode of transportation to and from work (as well as bars). I’m kinda lucky to be alive because there were quite a few times I rode my bike home while bombed. This was during a time in NYC did not have many bike lanes.
One wintery mix morning, I was about to mount my bike to ride to work and noticed that BOTH tires on my bike were flat. I was super annoyed because that was the second flat in a week’s time. Also, I was not in the mood to change two tires. Since I was already wearing my cycling clothes, I decided to run to work. Running 3.5 miles from Roosevelt Island to the UES is not that difficult, with the exception of crossing two bridges.
But, my “love” for running had returned. A feeling that I really did not have since 1998.
So there you go. See that definitely would have been too long of a story to tell to a half-naked man in the locker room.
How did you get into running?