There is no shame in it - it doesn’t bother me, it’s just the way it is.
In elementary school I was the kid that was picked last, or next to last, before the girl with the cast on her leg.
I remember one afternoon during recess telling a girl named Andrea that my family had been in a plane crash over the weekend. I informed Andrea I was now “bionic” and could now run really, really fast and hear really, really well out of one bionic ear. The Bionic Woman was a hugely popular television show at the time and I thought if I believed hard enough I was bionic, perhaps it would come true.
But deep down I knew it wasn’t true. I also knew that my family and I had not been on an airplane that had crashed the prior weekend. Andrea didn’t ask any questions, she just started letting everyone in on what had happened and told them to get ready for the amazing transformation that was about to be revealed.
I stood at one end of the playground with everyone watching me. Andrea stood next to me, ready to race. I was going to prove I was fast, that I was better, that I was special.
I was just as slow as usual.
Everyone walked away disappointed.
I was willing to test out my exceptional hearing out of my bionic ear at this point, but nobody seemed too interested.
Now was I not only not bionic, I was a liar too.
My grandfather on my mom’s side was very athletic and really into running. When I was 11 I decided that I was going to run a race with him, the “Ossining Road Race.” Grandpa and I would practice together, in preparation for the race. We would run around the block a few times and then I would slow down and he would go ahead of me. Then I would cut through some bushes and few neighbors’ yards and end up back on my front stoop. He would show up eventually and I would give him the old, “I’ve been here waiting for you, I finished ahead of you, you must just not have seen me run past you” story. At first I think he was leery of my speed but then I think he actually started to believe that I was this running protégé of his, that I really enjoyed it and that I was exceptionally good at it.
What I was good at was cheating. Like taking all of the stickers off of my Rubik’s Cube and putting them back on and then saying I solved it, I had Grandpa believing that I was running circles around him.
Finally came the day of the big race. I was excited to have a t-shirt with a big sneaker and the name of the race on it. It made me feel special and like I was part of something that was totally out of the norm for me. The race began and I started strong. Then I fell behind. Then what did I do? I of course took a shortcut and ended up finishing somewhere in the middle. Got a medal and everything.
Some people would feel a huge sense of disappointment for taking the easy way out but I still felt a sense of accomplishment, for even attempting to do something that was so outside of the box for me. And like I said, I got a t-shirt.
Last year after a long break (oh, like 28 years or so since the Ossining Road Race) I took up running again.
I started doing this three mile loop on the waterfront, power walking at first and then working up to a slow run. My run is about as fast as other people walk, but what the hell, I’m running. For reals. And I’m not cutting through anyone’s yard to get ahead of anyone else. I’m just doing it for me, listening to music, running over bridges and looking at the water. I try really hard not to let the voices in my head tell me that I am one of the least athletic people in the world.
Although I do let the voices tell me that I am not bionic, disappointing as that is.
|Wish I still had those shorts. And those socks.|