Running is a sport? I am a Runner?

We all get into running for different reasons.  Years ago,  I never thought of running as a thing to do without it being part of another sport.  Track and Field, cross country, road racing, or running in general were alien to me as a kid.

I’m not kidding. Quite literally, I was not aware that running was a sport. The summer Olympic Games that I saw on television in 1988 were a spectacle to me. I thought of it more like a circus without animals or clowns.  But still, in my seven yr old brain; these were “grown ups” who decided to do hard stuff, like a really difficult/organized game of tag.  I figured they were just fast and strong because some people are stronger or faster than others. I didn’t understand that you could train to be faster or stronger than those who were currently ahead of you.  Most adults in my life just didn’t talk to me about that stuff.

When my older sister went into the 8th grade she was recruited to run with the High School team. For me this is the first time I had an awareness of what running was.   Having run the fastest mile among the 7th grade girls at our elementary school, her PE teacher told her she would be a good long distance runner.  Being three years younger than her, I only heard and saw whatever she shared with us when she got home from the high school each day (North Arlington didn’t have a middle school in those days)  Of course, as siblings look to differentiate themselves, I was completely uninterested in doing things my sister did. I played soccer, she did not.   As a kid, this was a strong point in my personality and what I felt defined me as a kid.  I loved sports, and cars and motorcycles, and wanted to be a jet fighter pilot, or a Police officer, or “an Army guy”.  All macho tough guy stuff.  I thought, “anything Paulette does is for dorks!”  Running didn’t look macho or tough, and nothing explodes or makes a lot of fun noise. 

But of course, I got dragged along to track and Cross Country meets.  I was mostly pretty bored, but it was intriguing to see people racing one another for 3.1miles. In the back of my mind, I thought “I can do that, when I’m older I can probably run as fast as those kids!” But I didn’t verbalize it, I was a soccer player, and I was going to play pro soccer! I had a very vague sense of what that would be, but at that time I wanted to believe this very much.

Right up until the last week of the soccer season of my freshman year of high school I gave no thought to running anywhere besides on a soccer pitch. But then the coach of the freshmen team told us to run for the track team if we weren’t going to play indoor soccer.  I knew my parents weren’t going to pay for me to be part of an indoor league, so I signed up for Track and Field .  At first it was a torture-fest, but equally, an opportunity to socialize.  By the end of the spring season I was seeing progress as a miler and kind of enjoyed it. I made some new friends, it was cool to know more people walking through the halls between classes.

My sophomore year of high school was a difficult one, soccer just didn’t work out for me the way I dreamed it would as a kid.  When I approached the Cross Country Coach to ask if I could join the team, he said it was too late in the season. There are rules about that stuff. I was frustrated and disappointed. I liked track enough, and figured I could do what the other long distance runners could do.  Coach Rostel had a reputation as a nice guy, any decent kid would be glad to be part of his team. Also, I produced poor grades mid-year, so I had to skip the spring track season. I won’t lie, I slacked off and did very little exercise that spring.

Dissapointed but not discouraged, I determined myself to come back and make something out of the whole mess. I trained through the summer a bit (I’ll be honest and admit, I didn’t run consistently until mid July).  It seemed like a lot at the time, running 4-5 days a week, 3-5miles per day, Learning self-discipline, and doing things without someone blowing a whistle at me. I was effectively done with competitive soccer, and this was a new challenge.  And so, I became a runner, and that was just the beginning.

Somewhere in the 1st mile of the Palotti Invitational 1997. My first invitational race, first time racing out-of-state...it did not end well! :)

Somewhere in the 1st mile of the Palotti Invitational 1997. My first invitational race, and first time racing out-of-state…for me, it did not end well! Come in to the store if you want to see photos of what I looked like near the finish. :)

Please Comment, share part of your story with us here!
Happy Running,
Mike A

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