from academia to athletica

Recently I read this article in Runner’s World, about the author’s journey into health. He comments on how the memory of being fat never entirely goes away, even after you become fit.

I think I sympathize, albeit in a very different way. Throughout my days in elementary, junior high, and high school, I was an academic. I was (and still am) a geek. I was the student who everyone hated because I blew the curve on tests with my near-100% scores. Yes, I was THAT student.

(I’m not trying to brag. Really. Keep reading, I’m making a point.)

The ONLY class in which I was not successful was PE. I would get high scores for “effort” but I was terribly uncoordinated. (I still am, honestly. I can handle running, but I’m not good at sports that involve doing one thing with my hands while simultaneously doing something different with my feet!) And that was fine. When someone asked if I was involved in sports, I’d laugh and tell them, I’m not an athlete. I’m on the academic team.

Today, I still struggle with that. In the back of my mind, there’s always a voice telling me, “You’re not an athlete. Remember, you were on the ACADEMIC team, for goodness’ sake!”

Sidebar: I am in no way criticizing academic teams. I loved the academic team. We had a fantastic coach, and it provided a great place for us geeks to “belong”. I have so many good memories from that.

When I’m on a particularly long or otherwise challenging run, this is the voice in my head that I have to fight. That’s what I hear when my legs are aching or my lungs are screaming.

Even as I become healthier and happier, I sometimes fight the fear that I’ll slip away from this. What if one missed workout turns into two, then three, and then one day I wake up as my old self- academic and out of shape? What if I spend all this money on shoes, running gear, and race fees only to have the gear gathering dust in my closet one day?

Running is not about being smart or about being dumb. It’s about the fear that if I let myself go, that my “old” self will catch up. Yet I also keep running because I believe that, with each step, I’m leaving my old self behind. Slowly, one agonizing mile at a time, I’m becoming a new person, someone I barely recognize but someone who I embrace with all my heart.