I Hate Running (A guest post by my friend Jessie Stegner)

Hello all. The following is a guest post by the talented and beautiful Jessie Stegner. Jessie and I are founding members of the comedy group Shoelace Academy, so I am very proud to have her writing an entry on my blog. Below are some links to more pieces by Jessie, including her podcast. So by all means, check her stuff out and love her like the rest of the world does.

Jessie’s Podcast: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/jessie-and-matts-podcast/id401147975

Jessie’s travel articles: upchicago.com

And check out all things Jessie(shows, updates, etc): http://jessiestegner.tumblr.com/

I Hate Running

By Jessie Stegner

“If you don’t finish the mile under the set time, you will fail P.E.”

“Um, what?,” I thought. “Fail P.E.? Is that even allowed?” I didn’t understand. I thought the whole point of the class was just to be physical. To get out there and do your best. Now all of a sudden there are rules to what my best actually is? “I don’t even like running,” I kept thinking. “In fact, I hate running.”

My relationship with running goes back years. A decade, as a matter of fact. Back to middle school. It was the first time anyone ever forced me to run. It was also the first time I had to wear school uniforms, change clothes in front of my pre-teen peers and pretend to complain about the changes involved in “becoming a woman” even though I was only 45% sure what that phrase meant. It was a pretty influential time. All I remember were the girls who could run faster than me. Who ran almost effortlessly. They were the same girls who had perfectly straight hair, boyfriends and Victoria Secret bras. I would be struggling through lap 4 and they would be rounding their 6th. I would be huffing and puffing and they seemed to just glide on through, hair still perfectly held in a dark blue scrunchie (which matched our Bobcat P.E. uniforms, of course). It felt as though they were cruising through this awkward stage of life, just sprinting by me as I gasped for air.

After that experience I might have been able to forgive running. I might have given it a second chance. Had it not been for Ms. Silvan. Silvan was my freshman P.E. teacher. She was hardcore about physical health. She had really short silvery grey hair and spent most time in her office in the girls’ locker room which did nothing but make me uneasy. Who has an office in a locker room? Who wants to be surrounded by the sound of toilet flushes and B.O. all day long? Who wants to walk out their door and see awkward teenagers trying to get the cole slaw out of their braces after lunch? Silvan, that’s who. Silvan was tough. I never saw her eat. Not once. She didn’t have an ounce of body fat on her either. She lacked breasts…and a personality. Perhaps even a soul. The woman was obsessed with being fit. That was all she did at our high school. She was either teaching health, coaching the girls’ soccer team, or observing the freshmen’s mandatory physical education class. The woman was brutal. We had to do all the same exercises her soccer team did. Stair drills, runs around the neighborhood, you name it. I kept thinking, “ I specifically tried out for the school plays to avoid doing these. I am not cut out for this. I am not cut out to run.”

It finally came time for the semester exam. It was a fairly simple concept, we had to run a mile. The only catch was, we had to do it in less than 15 minutes. If we couldn’t we would fail P.E. FAIL. “What? Is that even allowed?” I would ask myself. Apparently it was. Apparently Silvan could do whatever she wanted. I thought about it for weeks. I dreaded it. I knew I couldn’t do it. I had never run it under 15 minutes before, what would make this occasion any different? 

Judgment day finally arrived. I showed up to third period in a sweat. I didn’t know what to do. I paced around the starting line on the field to try to calm myself down. I was doomed. 

Running a mile was 8 laps around our track. Silvan gave us an update on our time from her stopwatch as we passed her each time around. My heart stopped after every lap I made in fear that this was the moment she would say a number over the limit. 

I tried so hard. I moved my body as fast as I could. I tried to keep up with the other girls but it was to no avail. As I rounded for lap 6, I looked up and Silvan firmly stated, “Right now you’re at 15 minutes and 25 seconds. But I guess you can keep going.”

I finished the mile in about 20 minutes from what I remember. It was humiliating. I didn’t want to show my face in school again. It was bad enough being chubby with frizzy hair. Bad enough that I idolized Broadway stars and had no concept of how to talk to boys. Now I had to live with failing the one class in high school that was supposed to be a breeze. 

I swore off running for a long, long time. I bad mouthed it, complained about it and claimed it was the biggest waste of time. It was an evil that would take years to comprehend, years to face and years to overcome. 

Then one day in my senior year of college I found myself getting on my workout clothes and walking out the door. I don’t know what it was about that particular day, just something I felt I needed to do. I ran about four blocks before feeling like I was going to puke and having to stop. I turned back around and came home. But something inside of me, for some reason, really enjoyed it. When stripped of its teenage angst, running actually became an enjoyable activity. I kept at it. I ran and ran. I increased my distance. I decreased my time. Somewhere along the line, in spite of those bad memories, running became a part of me.

About 2 years ago I ran my very first race. Nothing too drastic, just a simple neighborhood 5K. I was scared out of my mind. All of my high school gym memories came flooding back to me as I approached the starting line. “ I write for the school newspaper, I sing in the choir, I have the lead in the musical,” I began to say to myself. “I do not go out for sports and I certainly do not run.” As I stood there among the 3,500 people participating, I wondered how many of them couldn’t finish their freshman year mile under 15 minutes. How many of them weren’t even planning on finishing today’s miles in that time. It was then that I realized it didn’t matter. No one cared about finishing in a certain amount of time or beating a certain number of people. We were all running because we found joy in it. We were running for all the right reasons. Quite simply, we were running because it makes us happy. 

But, for the record, all three of my miles in that race were run in well below 15 minutes. So Silvan, you can suck it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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