Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Mystery and Excitement of "Running the Mile"

Do you remember back in school, probably somewhere around 6th or 7th grade, one day your gym teacher walked in and said "Ok, kids - today you're running the mile." Maybe you knew about it before hand. But one way or another, you probably had to do this. I recently heard some co-workers of mine (who were getting ready for their own workout) talking about their kids having to do this "today"... which was actually yesterday. They had big grins on their faces looking at each other with that "I know your kid's excited" sort of look. It hit me: Running the mile is a rite of passage and something special.

When I ran the mile you had several different types of kids:
  • The Self-Doubters - The ones who dreaded running the mile. They don't want to appear weak or not good enough. Usually they ended up sitting somewhere in the middle to rear of the pack when all was said and done.
  • The "Been There, Done That"Group - This is no big thing. They probably run cross country already. They know they can do it - but it will probably be about beating a personal best score (or a rival). Sometimes these people are the ones you don't expect to do as well as they do because they aren't good at other gym activities like basketball. They're usually excited to do this because they know they're going to do well. I was in this group back in middle school.
  • The Egotistical S.O.B.s - These were the kids (usually boys, sorry guys) who knew they were going to set really high scores for themselves. Usually jocks who probably never ran that much at one time in their life. In the end, they usually got smoked by the cross country runners who actually know how to pace themselves. Most of the time they end up near the front middle of the group.
  • The Stragglers - The ones who didn't want to do well on this task, that being bad it was somehow cool. The ones who didn't want to appear to be jocks at all. They end up walking most, if not all of the way, talking with each other. Usually girls - sorry ladies.
  • The "No Prayer In the World" Group - These are the people you feel sorry for. They are going to come in last. Everyone knows they are going to come in last. They know they are going to come in last. And there's nothing you can do about it. Oddly enough, they usually do try. They probably could do better if they worked at it. They do finish last (unless the Stragglers are moving particularly slowly).
The race begins. Four times around the track. The first runners come in usually around 7 minutes (some earlier). they take a seat on grass waiting for everyone else. The last group usually comes in around 15-20 minutes, depending on how much they actually wanted to run. That's it until next year. Kids celebrate getting through it. Gym Teachers usually give a small lecture about the times and how everyone should have come in under 10 minutes, and you feel sorry for the "No Prayer In The World" Group again. Then you marvel at the person who came in first. There's always one person who no one can catch.

So what happened to me? I used to belong to the "Been There, Done That" group. Now I'm part o the "No Prayer In the World" Group and I'm scared to even run a mile outside. Inside on the elliptical isn't that hard. But outside - whole different story. Not to mention the goals are bigger. When you're an adult you no longer talk about "The Mile". It's 5k, 10k, half-marathon, marathon, 5 miles, 3 miles... whatever. Never THE MILE. Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves?

I have an idea. I want to bring the Mystery of the Mile back into my life somehow. I miss it. Hearing about it makes me long for middle school (eeep! Did I just say that???). From my house to the end of the street is 0.6 miles. I measured it. So if I turn around and come back, that's 1.2 miles. I think I need to start doing that every once in a while, just to gauge my progress. Just the mile. No, not "just the mile": THE MILE.

Think I could do that? If I want to have a more active life style I have to start living a more active life style. Right? I should give it a shot.