The Dirt Track: The Day A Distance Runner Was Born
As a typical elementary school child I remember looking forward to recess, lunch, art and PE. PE was by far my favorite time at school! It was clear my physical education teacher, Mr. Hunt, loved his job and inspired me to want to be a PE teacher (I ended up being a coach, close enough). He always challenged us in new ways and I remember when he introduced the Presidential Fitness Challenge. This is when my athletic abilities started to shine, a needed confidence boost at that time in my life. (I believe to this day I still hold the elementary school record for the most sit-ups and push-ups in a minute). Even at a young age I strived to do my best and knew how to push myself.
On occasion we would have the opportunity to run. He would take us all the way across the patchy grass field to the far side of the dirt track and we’d line up for hundred-meter sprints. We’d keep racing each other until it came down to the final battle with the two fastest runners going head to head. I am pleased to say I was almost always one of them. It usually came down to me and the fastest boy, or on occasion a fast girl. Most of the time I won that 100 meter sprint. I loved the feeling of the wind in my blonde hair and pushing my lungs and legs until they burned. One day after completing our “sprint wars” Mr. Hunt informed us that we would be doing a race all-the-way-around the 400 meter dirt track. In those days and at that age we all thought that was really far. I remember being excited and up for the challenge. As I toed the shoe-drawn dirt line, I distinctly remember telling myself to not start in a sprint because I had a long way to go and I wanted to save the sprint for the end. I started out at what I thought was a conservative pace. As I rounded the first bend I immediately took the lead and never looked back. It was definitely more difficult than the 100 meter run but I finished in a full on sprint loving every minute of it. As I crossed the finish line that day, I turned around to see which one of my friends would finish next. To my surprise everyone was far behind. It was in that moment, so many years ago on that dirt track, that I discovered I had something special. I was a fast runner. Even though it was a small moment, that was a very needed victory in my life at that time. That was the day that the distance runner in me was born.