So, lately I've been jogging...regularly.
I'm trying to make this make sense. Consider:
When I was young, I was an awesome runner. I was faster than any girl in my class, and faster than most of the boys. In fact, I was the only girl who ran the fifty-yard playground dash during recess in elementary school that wasn't trying to get boys to like her and therefore intentionally losing. I could beat almost anyone in my class, except Mikey Bargey and Gordon Kiewiet, and on occasion Brian Boldizar or Jason McHenry. I wasn't good at such President's Physical Fitness Test events as "Steal the Bacon," but when it came to a straight track shot or a couple of laps, I was usually first.
Gradually things changed, and my friends Tracy Schmelzer and Ann Siegrist caught up with me, and later Sunshine Nelson, maybe one or two others. I was dancing a lot more, which changes your musculature, while they were playing basketball and softball. Still, I was pretty darn quick, and I remember in middle school when we'd go over to run on the high school track (which involved walking through the woods), and sometimes my sister's class would be out there. That's how I achieved the name "Flo Jo," after winning a particularly big race (I can't even remember what the heck it was, just that I won and then collapsed), and having her cheer for me, which ruled.
In seventh grade I ran track officially, hurdles, which was pretty great. I was trying to get out of distance running at that point, because it made me queasy, and while I wasn't a particularly great hurdle runner, I was more flexible than most of the girls who hadn't done that sort of thing before. Basically, I was the best beginner we had. I ran 60s and 100s, but did better at 100s because I could get up more speed between the hurdles. I have a picture of me flying over a hurdle, actually...it was during my awkward stage, so I won't be showing you unless I'm tipsy. My best friend Ann ran 60s with me, and we often went 1-2 in a race, me at #2, but I won quite a few 100 races, too, or at least came in first out of our runners. I hated running hurdle relays, though...I didn't like being dependent on others' performances.
One big track meet we needed another 4X400 runner, and I got tapped. I was coordinated with a baton, and I remember very clearly that I had a lot of ground to make up on my lap. We actually came in 8th, which was good enough for a medal. After that race, my coach tried to make me a permanent 400 runner, but I actually refused. The season was almost over, I was beginning to hate the queasiness from running a distance, and I wanted to dance more. So, by eighth grade, track was out. It wasn't good for my dance muscles, and I knew my Mom didn't like watching me on hurdles. She'd seen me wipe out a few times in practice.
I still had to run in gym, though, and I plunged on through the required 1-mile and 2-mile races, along with others. I can honestly say I only missed track once or twice, while watching others run hurdles in practices. I was too busy with dance, piano, and other projects, and I sure didn't miss feeling sick...I mean, if you're going to be so overheated and tired you're nauseous, you might as well be wearing a tutu, right?
But I was a bit harassed by Mr. Greider, who was coaching cross country at the time. He wanted me to go out for cross, and I probably would have been good at it, but I resisted. It felt nice to be pursued for cross, but there was no way I was going to run that much. I remember once I had a past dance injury bothering me; I didn't realize I was limping at all until he pointed it out. I think at that point I made some explanation about dance and I remember he didn't bother me much after that. I'd made my choice and was obviously dedicated to it.
After 9th grade gym I didn't run much, and I was dancing intensely for hours every week, so I sure as heck didn't miss it. When I pulled my hamstring (dancing) after college I was in physical therapy, which involved a treadmill once in a while, and here at grad school when I was really angry I ran around town, sometimes throwing a sprint in for good measure, but that's about it. I love walking, and hiking, and have done a lot, but running...well, that was pretty much out of the picture.
Until this last couple of weeks. For some reason, I started jogging once a week, then every few days, then every other day. Last week I ran four times. What the heck is going on? I'm not dancing much now, but I do make sure to stretch properly before and after so as not to damage those muscles; I have plans for dancing later this summer. But why running now? What's changed?
I know I've had an aggravating year; in fact, I just got back some poor semester evaluations, in my opinion, and I know part of this is running out the frustration. I also know my sister can now run over two miles comfortably, which I haven't been able to do in years, and I'm jealous. The weird part is that, while I'm quick, the only reason I was really good at running was competition. I wanted to beat other people, and in independent racing, it was easy to measure myself against others. But I'm not competing against anyone now. I know my cardio system has been in a slump and needs to improve. I know I've been feeling sluggish and wanted to make sure I got exercise. I also know I have exercise and allergy asthma, and running isn't really the best for that (especially outside; I hate running indoors). But I also know that I'm terribly bored.
I can't explain why I am suddenly obsessed with running. Well, not obsessed, but returning to the fold. It's confusing, but at the same time weirdly satisfying. So if you see me, browned and lean, in short shorts, just think of a little girl running like a cheetah across the blacktop, beating all the boys. She's probably wearing a dress, or barefoot, and if you blow the whistle, she will just keep running.