Sunday, July 3, 2011

Why I Run Long Distance

Do you remember Sports Day at elementary school? There was a build-up to the most fun day of the school year in June, when you'd relish the lack of bells and classes and the chance to be outside just playing games, eating hot dogs and going home early. Of course, if you grew up anywhere around Vancouver, Sports Day was postponed about seven times due to rain before it actually happened.

So it was extra exciting to finally, FINALLY have a day of fun. And the main event, at the very end of the day, after all the silly, not-real sports, was the race. The real test of athletic prowess. Everyone lines up at the ditch by the fence, wiggling like puppies on a leash, and the principal loudly announces, "Ready? Set? GO!" We take off, sprinting as fast as our gangly legs would take us to the finish line at the jungle gym, only about 100 feet away, but always just too far for me. I was as eager as anyone else, but my short little legs only got to second gear, and no matter how much I craved that first-place blue ribbon, no matter how much effort I put in, it was no good. I was always at the back of the pack. I learned early on I am not a sprinter and never will be.

But set me up with a pair of good shoes and a bottle of water and I'll run till the cows come home. I am a distance runner. That's the beauty of distance running: anyone can do it, no matter how short your legs are, or whether or not you started young, because it's just a matter of putting in the time and having the mental stamina. If you just keep going, you'll get there. And then, like any Sports Day hero, you can legitimately say, "I'm a runner, too."

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