One of the things I remember most is long-distance running. I don't know how big the grass field at the junior high was, it wasn't a standard football field, but I remember it being huge. I also don't know how many times we had to circle that field, but I do know it was more than should be expected of any human being. The first few times we had to do the long-distance thing, I held to the back, where I felt I belonged, and straggled in with the last few slow runners.
But a funny thing happened one day. I happened to be in a deep conversation with my good friend Lisa Sanchez. Lisa was a gymnast. Had aspirations of being in the Olympics some day. So Lisa didn't hang out in the back, she was right in front when Mrs. Burns bellowed 'Go'. And I was right there with her, carrying on that conversation. We stayed together for several laps, right in front, first and second place. Eventually Lisa apologized and pulled ahead. But there I was in second place. Second place. Me. Let me tell you, I have never placed in anything athletic wise. Nothing. Nada. It was an incredible feeling. I could feel that third place person on my back, and I pushed ahead. Funny how it's fine to be dead last, until you have a chance of actually placing. Then that's all that matters.
It turns out this was a huge calculated mistake, because it gave Mrs. Burns the mistaken impression that I was some kind of an athlete. She tortured me for the next two years, convinced I should be able make some kind of showing for myself. "Again! Do it again! I know you can do it!" And with each sprint or whatever, I wouldn't even place in the 'acceptable' range. Ah, the memories.
Anyway, back to this particular run, I pushed myself harder than I should have, trying to keep my second place position. Finally I had to relent to third, than fourth place, but I was determined to keep that position. Eventually I got to the point that I didn't think I could take another step, and Mrs. Burns called out "Just two more laps!"
I should have been relieved to hear there was an eventual end to this race, but instead I looked out at the field, which looked as big as the ocean, and thought 'Two more laps? Are you kidding me? I have to go around that field two more times?'
I did keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I did keep that fourth-place position. Mostly because every other girl in the class was content to be in the pack, far behind those that were pushing ahead. I dropped onto the grass afterwards, feeling my heart pound heavy in my chest, pretty confident that I'd never get up again. (Obviously I did, but it took a good, long time.)
I've thought of that run a lot this week. People keep saying, "Just two more rounds. Just two more rounds." And I'm thinking, "Are you kidding me? I have to do this two more times?"