I recently added 10k runs to my training regimen. In fact, I completed my first 6.2 mile run a few weeks ago, fulfilling a goal dating back to sixth grade. Each year, our local elementary schools participated in a 10k. Students qualified by either running twenty laps around the soccer field under the supervision of a friend, or by running twenty-five laps during gym class. I managed to jog and walk about seventeen laps while my best friend observed. He was kind enough to testify to my qualifying effort and so I was “in”.
A few weeks later, race day arrived. Like many students, I came out of the gate running. Unlike many students, I was overweight and extremely out of shape. I faded fast. Within the first quarter-mile, I was walking, panting and looking for the white rescue van. I was ready to give up. Adam, a fellow student and quitter, joined me. Together we planned to hop into the van when it caught up to us. After an interminable period of suffering, the van sidled up. Sitting inside were the beaten souls of kids who dropped out of the race and ‘took the ride’. Sitting in front of them, hanging out the door was our school gym coach, who we fittingly called “Coach”.
“Run, fat boy! Don’t be a loser!”
Gym class in those days did not concern itself with the fair play and esteem-building that we see today. It centered around endless squat thrusts, the wounds garnered during army dodge ball, and the humiliation. ”What?! You can’t even do one pull up?!”
“Coach” did not mince words. He believed in pushing you to finish. As a look of resignation and pain crossed my face, I could see him leaning out of the side of the van. He screamed, in his shrill voice, those words that would forever motivate me.
“Run, fat boy!” He howled. “Don’t be a loser!” Now, I may be embellishing it a bit, but it has evolved this way in my memory. What I do remember is the feeling of humiliation. So I pushed on, running, jogging, walking, and struggling, until I finally crossed the finish line. I didn’t feel good. Not because of the humiliation, nor because of the pain, but because I knew I didn’t train. I cheated myself and felt it.
Whenever I need to push myself, I envision that scene. I see “Coach” (in one of those slow motion movie reels) leaning out of the van door, screaming “Run, fat boy!” and I push on. I also laugh, because it seems so absurd. I feel good.
When I completed my first training 10k, I felt great. It was like realizing a life long dream. It also gave me a chance to laugh again, picturing that ridiculous scene. But it gets me going, and it gets me to the finish. We runners find strange sources of motivation. Sometimes we do whatever it takes to cross the finish line, no matter how silly.
About Ken Storen
Ken is the proudest father of the greatest little 7 year old on the planet. In order to keep up with her infinite energy, he likes to take long, slow jogs. It is the only way he can remain in shape to play hour after hour of ”Catch the Cheetah”. He also did and does a lot of other stuff.