I always envied the kids who were picked last in gym class, because I was never picked at all.
After the teams were formed, my classmates would simply walk away and leave me sitting on the sidelines. My high school gym teacher would occasionally assign me to a team, but more often than not, I’d find myself walking in circles around the gym or sitting in the bleachers with a book.
Not that I blamed them. To call me uncoordinated would be a compliment. The last time I tried to run a mile in high school, I tripped and fell about two steps into it. I couldn’t even put one foot in front of the other, let alone hit or catch a ball that was flying at my face. It was in everyone’s best interest that I showed complete apathy toward sports.
Given my history — or lack thereof — with athletic pursuits, I was shocked when I came in second in my age group at my first 5K race last weekend.
Granted, there weren’t many women my age participating in the “Beat Beethoven” 5K. But for me, running at all felt like a victory, and I was left trying to figure out what had happened during the 10 years that had passed since I last tried to run in a group.The answer? Life had happened.
People talk about running from their problems in a figurative sense, but I made it literal. When I started running a little under a year ago, I was unemployed. I’d recently ended an engagement, and was coping with my feelings about returning to Paducah, the town I’d left after my mother passed away.
After a certain amount of exertion — a mile, at first — I couldn’t think straight, and that was a blessing at the time.
When my situation started to improve, I fretted that I would lose my motivation to keep running. But by then, I was hooked.
People ask how I find the motivation to run, but for me, it’s a question of finding a good reason not to run. When I have a problem to work out or stress to get rid of, I lace up my running shoes and hit the road. The fact that it’s good for my health is just an added bonus.
And the sport has left me with a new mindset. When I tackle a project that seems tedious, I try to imagine I’m heading toward a finish line, putting one foot in front of the other.
I can’t help but feel grateful for the difficulties that first led me to take to the road. If it weren’t for them, I never would’ve crossed that finish line on Saturday.
Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641 or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.