Home > Health, Personal, Youth > Running & a middle school boy’s wisdom

Running & a middle school boy’s wisdom

My son and husband are watching a televised track meet being held in my hometown.

My mom used to take my siblings running along that track. We were all fast runners, something I thought we’d inherited from our dad until my mom’s cousin exclaimed how fast she always ran.

I was in middle school the one and only time I was chosen first for a team. My P.E. teacher explained my class would be running various durations for the next several weeks. She’d pool each team’s time for each run and tally them at the end. The team ending the challenge with the shortest total running time would get a school store credit.

Tim, a quiet boy I knew only as a skater, was named a team leader. He was told he could choose before other team leaders. He named me without skipping a beat.

I was shocked. A weirdo in weird clothes, I was always chosen last or close to it. It never occurred to me that a middle schooler might choose teammates based not on popularity but skill. Indeed, many adults haven’t mastered this!

I beat even the boys in all save the shortest runs. My team beat the next fastest team by a wide margin.

I was gone the day store credits were issued. Once back at school, I went to my P.E. teacher and asked for my credit. She’d already tossed out the team member names and said she didn’t remember me being on the team.

“The team won because of me!” I cried, outraged. I’d been chosen for that purpose because victory was virtually inevitable!

“I don’t remember that,” she said.

“Tim will. Do you want me to go get him? Because I will!” I glowered at her. I never argued with teachers, but this was a big deal to me.

She peered over her glasses at me and considered the situation for a moment.

“I guess I believe you,” she said. She wrote me a store credit and waved me off.

I have almost never felt as victorious as I did spending my store credit. I’d earned it not once but twice: first by running fast, and second by standing up by myself.

Finishing a marathon a couple decades later felt great, but still not that great.

Two and a half decades later, I remain grateful for everything I’ve learned by running … and for one middle school boy’s insight translated to action.

Summited K2! Oh, wait.

Still running, slower than before but just as gladly


If you’re wondering whether you can run, yes, you can. If you’re wondering whether you can climb a mountain, yes. If you’re wondering whether you can write that book, yes. Yes, yes, yes. The words I wrote concluding “I could run!” stand true for almost everything you aim to accomplish:

So many people have told me they couldn’t run a marathon, a statement that perplexes me. Maybe not right at this exact moment. Maybe not without a little training.

But even starting with only one minute, or six, is a start. The shortness of those starting runs isn’t a sign of failure.

It’s a reminder that, with a little patience, the best is very likely yet to come.

  1. May 30, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    You have definitely said the right thing today because I was trying to convince myself that, though I struggled walking a mile today and did not finish it, I will be able to in time as long as I don’t give up. Thank you.

    • May 30, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      One of my Japanese coworkers told me sadly she couldn’t run. I suggested she start with one-lap walks, build up to two or three, and then start slowly working one lap running in. She was doing several runs around the track by the time I left. 🙂

      If the first steps only total 0.10 miles, that’s 0.10 miles the right direction! Someday you’ll look at those 0.10-mile walks and think how far you’ve come.

  2. Paul
    May 30, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    You are one multi-talented mother aren’t you ? (see what I did there?) Run on sister, run on! 😀

    • May 30, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      LOL! Thanks. 😀

      It’s been a little while, but I have been feeling the urge building again. Tomorrow I run … five minutes or thirty, it’s all good!

  3. May 30, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Sounds like Tim was wise beyond his years. And kudos to you for maintaining the gusto to do things others might not think possible. Because you’re right: we can. 🙂

    • May 30, 2015 at 2:52 pm

      I really didn’t notice how often people said they couldn’t do things until I said I’d run a marathon. It was so gratifying to say, “I didn’t think I could, either, until I ran one!” From that light, I saw there were many things I’d thought impossible until I did them … and started getting more optimstic. :p

  4. May 30, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Standing up for yourself was an incredible victory that day. I suspect it was harder for you to do than the running as well.
    I can’t is one of the most powerful self-fulfilling prophecies I know. MS probably means that I can’t run a marathon, but I can do more of rather a lot of things than I currently do. Thank you for the nudge.

    • June 1, 2015 at 6:26 pm

      I was still a teacher’s pet by this point, so the thought of speaking up to a teacher … enough to make me weak at the knees! That’s part of feeling so fantastic afterward, of course.

      I can’t is one of the most powerful self-fulfilling prophecies I know.
      So perfectly stated! I am constantly amazed by your ability to say succinctly and well things it takes me entire sequences of posts to get close to explaining.

      • June 1, 2015 at 7:13 pm

        Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. I struggle with words and concepts and often feel I have said too much – or too little.

  5. May 30, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    Let’s hope your confidence and enthusiasm is contagious. We all need to master this attitude and run, run, run. And be thankful for the small victories that lead to the next and the next. Thanks–as usual.

    • June 1, 2015 at 6:28 pm

      I would love if it would be so! It was really astonishing to me how many people said they couldn’t run a half-marathon. “Well, not if you tried right now, you probably couldn’t!” With preparation and patience, so much is possible. 🙂

  6. My Name is Earl
    May 30, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    Don’t run away from success. Instead, run toward it because the only way to true success is to trample it beneath our feet. Thanks for the inspiration to think this thought. ❤

    • June 1, 2015 at 6:32 pm

      The running itself is a success! I’d meant to do my first run in months this weekend, but it didn’t turn out that way. Still, things can turn out great even if not as expected, as Mad Max this weekend reminded me. 😀 😀 😀

  7. May 30, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    What a great memory to bring out when you consider another challenge. A wonderful encouragement to me, as well. Thank you!

    • June 1, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      I’m so glad to have this well of victories! Some days, when all I remember is how my last twenty decisions weren’t so hot, I’m reminded I’ll be running through more enjoyable finishes before long. 🙂

  8. jottlings
    May 31, 2015 at 7:03 am

    I sure hope so. I sure hope I can tackle the mountain.

  9. cardamone5
    May 31, 2015 at 7:17 am

    Agree. Anyone can do anything they truly set their mind (and heart) to. Thanks for the reminder.


  10. May 31, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    What a telling memory. And how wonderful that you still use that lesson. Isn’t it crazy how someone’s small actions—like choosing teams in middle school—can have lasting consequences?

    • June 1, 2015 at 6:51 pm

      It is! What’s so funny to me is that I have these moments where someone’s small action, or offering of a handful of words, changed much for me. When I’ve shared some of those with the actor/speaker, it’s been surprising to see just how often they don’t even remember the acts or words that rocked me. I love that.

  11. June 1, 2015 at 3:43 am

    I miss running. Today I woke in such pain it reminded me how much I miss those steps. Dang, you reminded me there are things I can do, when there isn’t this. Thank you.

    • June 1, 2015 at 6:52 pm

      It’s been months since I ran. I meant to run yesterday, but didn’t realize until fairly late in the day. (Forget about sleeping if I run late!) I’m gearing up to run this weekend. I’ll aim for five, and savor almost every single step, whether I do run five or twenty. I’ll be even more appreciative this week, as I’ll feel you in that run. ♥

  12. June 1, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    After the challenging day tainted with self doubt I had, your piece was much needed. Thank you #yesIcan

  1. March 3, 2016 at 12:26 pm

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