What you don’t know because you are not me
From Around The Park, June 2008
“Why did you run?” The question is often asked to me. My answers vary and depend on the time of day they are asked, my mood and how much I care for the questioner. But, today I am not going to attempt to answer that question. This moth’s question is “Why did you start running?”
I think it was the fall of 1977. I started 9th grade at Sheepshead Bay High School. . Little league was not so good, my parents fought for me to play, but the couch was really doing me a favor by benching me. I was usually picked last for any pick-up ball game. So, gym class was really not the best part of my day. Stinky locker-room, dodge ball, climb a rope or wrestle or sit up on the gym floor, then back to the stinky locker room. No, not fun at all.
A few weeks into the school year there were no mats in the gym, there were some desks. All the coaches were there. They said that if you made it on to any varsity team; 1) You would be exempt from gym, 2) gym would actually be moved to the last period, so you could just go home early and 3) you would get a grade of 95 on your report card. This was good, very good.
There was a problem, teams had tryouts. I had to be able throw or catch a ball or I had to be willing to pin somebody. This was not good. Then I saw the track couch. I remember asking him what I had to do to get on the Track Team. Coach Silverman said all I had to do was show up. (In PSAL Track the fastest runners score points for the team, the slower runners do not effect the scoring, kinda like Club Team Points in NYRC events.)
Show up I could do. I also enjoyed the fact that the faster kids actually talked me; they became my friends (Also like the Prospect Park Track Club).
I was never fast, but I learned that I could just keep going if I maintained a steady pace. I actually enjoyed the cross country events, mostly in Prospect Park and some in Van Courtland Park. I think the coach actually noticed me in 11th grade. I remember that he took me aside and gave me an application to a 5 mile race in Mill Basin. “This was a real race with grown ups” he said, and “I just think you might enjoy it.”.
The next day came the funny awkward meeting. Silverman probably talked to a college and found out he made a mistake. He told me that PSAL (Public School Athletic League) runners are not allowed to compete in AAU (Amateur Athletic Union, the predecessor the MAC, Metropolitan Athletic Conference) events. He realized that he could get in trouble. The he nervously smiled and said that this rule would only come into play if I score, if I finish in the top 3 in my age category. I realized he was really trying not to hurt my feelings, he was being realistic.
And I really liked running with the grown-ups. (So did my 8 year old daughter at the Kenny Dolan 5K).
In my Junior Year in High School I joined the New York Road Runners Club. I ran races with sponsors like Pepsi and Mazola and a race called the Hispanic Half (Is that politically correct?) I eventually applied for the New York City Marathon. But that is a story for next month.