By Sean Pearson
I don’t get joggers.
Trust me, I’ve tried. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not even called “jogging” anymore. It’s just called running. And I still hate it.
Granted, running in Alaska can certainly afford you some of the most stunning vistas of mountains, glaciers and a wide variety of cute and cuddly wildlife critters. I hear it’s also good for exercise. And how could Forest Gump possibly be wrong?
Still, I just don’t see how blisters, cramps, shin splints and that terrible ache in your side that never goes away can ever be worth that elusive runner’s “high” so many people talk about achieving. I ran several miles in my youth, just looking for that high. It never came. I’m guessing those long-distance runners either made it up, or they’re simply delusional and dissociative after running for so long. (I haven’t completely ruled out some kind of Nike/Adidas conspiracy to sell more $135 cross-trainers yet either. If there’s a conspiracy going on, rest assured that I will discover it. Even if there’s not one, I’ll probably find one anyway.
In my defense, I have to say I was kinda bullied into the whole “jogging” scene. Elementary school P.E. in Louisiana consisted of whatever your teacher was in the mood for that day. Some days we brought out that big red rubber ball for a cutthroat game of kick ball. Other days it was four square. Or long jump. Or even Red Rover. (Yes, this was back in the day when it was perfectly acceptable to taunt your classmates from afar, and then see if you could clothesline them without getting caught by the teacher.) And while the breaking of arms wasn’t so much encouraged in our Red Rover games, back then, nobody even cared if we jumped out of the swings when they were 15 feet in the air. Or played tackle football. Or even climbed up the slide backward. Let’s face it, we were the renegades. I still remember one kid giving it all up for a particularly merciless game of duck, duck, goose.
And nobody wore a bike helmet. If you crashed your bike, it was pretty much you against the pavement. No cushy knee and elbow pads. We were tough back then.
Well, at least I thought we were.
Then we moved.
And, much to my chagrin, P.E. in West Texas was an entirely different experience.
Apparently, the actual acronym, P.E. stands for physical education, not “play everywhere.” Who knew?
After logging hours and hours of footloose and fancy free kickball and four square, imagine my surprise in discovering that schools in West Texas were working on the President’s Physical Fitness Program. They ran, did sit-ups and pull-ups. (Except for the girls, who got off with the wimpy “arm hang.” I don’t care if they have less upper body strength. I had arms the size of small saplings. Was I really expected to complete even one?)
The sit-ups weren’t any better. Incredibly enough, I wasn’t a chubby child growing up, but I found it completely demoralizing to have Ricky Stovall as my partner — especially since he was considered the reigning sit-up champion at Rusk Elementary School. (This was back in the day where doing sit-ups with your hands behind your head while someone just held onto your knees was perfectly acceptable. I think my chiropractor might have a little something to say about that now, though.)
I went first, and let’s just face it: I was a complete and utter slug.
The look on Ricky’s face as I managed to squeeze out 12 sit-ups in the one-minute time limit was one of pure disdain. And how could I blame him? When it came to his turn, he was a blazing fury of abs and elbows. I lost count somewhere around 110. Luckily, he was coordinated enough to complete sit-ups while also counting them, so he was able to correct me when I shorted him by seven.
Still, the ultimate nemesis of my physical fitness challenge was the mile run. What kind of person runs a mile for no reason? I started off even with the pack, and quickly faded to a slow jog — and then a walk. And while the cheers from my teammates and threats from an overzealous, tree-trunk-armed P.E. teacher named Rock were certainly inspiring, they did nothing to alleviate the searing and screaming pain in my lungs. (I wonder if moving from a place with 95 percent humidity to the middle of the desert had anything to do with that?)
Nevertheless, I did finish the one-mile run/walk/crawl. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t under the allotted 20-minute time limit, and I didn’t get a presidential patch that year. However, it did provide me with some decent motivation to stop smoking.
(No, I really didn’t smoke in the sixth grade. Do you really believe everything you read?)
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