I was in eleventh grade when I really learned how to accept myself for who I am, and for that reason it takes the place of my favorite high school memory. Sure, there are other memories I can recall that were much happier, but those are the ones that should never be written so they may fade into the shadows of my mind where they can be recalled only on occasion, like the priceless jewels they are.
I was overweight at the time, and still am for that matter, but I was working to become more fit and active. I started doing more cardiovascular exercises like jogging, walking, and sports in the hopes to best my asthma and have an easier time with physical activities. The best way to judge my improvement: the fitness test.
Every year for physical education it is required to run a mile in order to gauge a person’s fitness, along with other pointless tests. The previous years I had clocked in for my mile time between 12.5 and 13 minutes, depending on how much my asthma acted up during the run. This year I was determined to do better. My goal was to run the entire mile in ten minutes or less. My friend, Megan, who was in a similar situation as I was, had the same goal, and so we were each other’s support and cheering squad.
It was cold out that day. My inhaler was in my pocket just in case, though I had already decided that I was not going to need it. I was worried about the chilliness because that is the greatest trigger for my asthma (and is usually the only reason I ever need my inhaler), but that is always how the conditions are for the fitness mile and so I had already determined that I would just have to deal with it.
My gym teachers were beside the track, signaling everyone to fall in and get prepared for the mile. Megan and I settled in next to each other and exchanged a few last encouraging words. I was pumped. I would finally be able to get the chance to see if all of my work had been in vain or not. Mrs. R finally gave the word to start, and we were off.
The first lap was easy-it always is-but I wanted to pace myself because if I run too fast right from the gate then I get worn out. Something about not having much slow-twitch muscle fibers. I’m only good for the sprints-if a run requires any endurance, you can count me out. So, I fell into a stride that I thought was at a decent enough pace to make my goal. I drifted towards the back of the group of runners, sure, but I already expected that because all the athletes in the class always cut ahead right from the start.
Coming around to end the first lap, the time was called out at 2.5 minutes elapsed. I knew that if I continued on at the same pace without stopping to walk at all that I could make it in just about 10 minutes. Of course, I also knew that the likelihood of that was pretty near nil, but I could accept not making my goal as long as I put in the effort just the same.
As I was crossing the line, however, I heard Mr. R sarcastically comment, “Well, these are our star athletes, aren’t they?” I felt my blood boil. Sure, I was no where near being a good runner, nor were the people around me, but he had absolutely no right whatsoever to put anyone down in that way. We were putting more effort in at that moment than most of the other runners who were naturally able to do it and ran the mile in just enough time so that they would make the national level even though they could have done much better than that.
I was so furious that I entertained the idea of stopping right then and there and accepting a zero for the mile. Of course, I would have failed gym because the mile is mandatory to pass, but that is a small price to pay for my integrity. I will not be talked down to like that, especially since I did nothing to earn such disrespect.
All these thoughts were primary ones. They flashed through my head in mere seconds before I realized what they actually meant. This was my mile. It was supposed to be my chance to prove to myself that I could improve. Why would I even entertain the idea of letting anyone take that from me?
I let the comment go and did complete the mile. It took me between 11 and 11.5 minutes. I did not reach my goal of running the mile in ten minutes, but I did shave one and a half minutes off my time, and that was something to be proud of. Certainly I was no athlete, but I’m fine with just doing my best and being myself.
Ironic as it is, I could not be mad at Mr. R for very long. It is a shame that he believes that only the people who finish quickly are the best, especially in such a noncompetitive setting as that. Maybe one day he will realize that it is the journey that is the most important thing, not how quickly it ends. When that day comes, I hope he recognizes how beautiful the journey is when you are not concerned with being the best, but with doing your best. I know I have.