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When I was eight years old my mother was delusional enough to think that she would become a soccer mom. She had a full time job delivering babies, which seemed to occupy an awful lot of her time, however social pressure (something that she had never bowed down to before) dictated that she jump on the early forming bandwagon and enroll my brother and I in park district soccer so that perhaps she too could drive a minivan and wear sweater vests. Either that, or my brother asked if he could play and I wanted to do it too since I still had painful memories of having to sit on the sidelines at all his T-ball games because I was too little to play, oh, and because I was afraid of the ball.

I remember going to the first team meeting at someone’s house. There were some very important decisions made at that meeting to which I played a pivotal part, as the name I had suggested was chosen and we were to be the Phantoms. The following week my brother and I were both excited as my mother fulfilled her duty and dropped us off at our respective soccer fields. However, when she picked us up from practice she was surprised to find me in a foul mood, and I declared that “I QUIT!” When she asked me to elaborate she claims that I said “because he made me run!” This could perhaps be how I articulated my thoughts and feelings at the age of eight, but let me elaborate (defend myself) just a bit:

At the end of the practice drills (at which I have no doubt that I was completely hopeless) we had to run a lap around the field. Being a rather corpulent child, I was the slowest kid on the team, so the coach made me run the lap again. (Sidebar- If I didn’t run it fast enough the first time, what-in-the-hell makes you think that I am going to run it faster the second time?) When I finished the second lap the coach pointed me out to all of the other kids and informed them that since I was so slow I would make them lose. Although I don’t quite remember everything about this next part, I often recall the looks of apathy coming from a group of children sitting cross-legged as I stood the spectacle in front of them (I do remember that part). However, since I often remember these kids wearing baseball uniforms I seem to think that I have incorporated into my memory the cast from a 1980s after school special about a loser sports team. Really, if I try hard enough I could remember being on the Millennium Falcon when the Death Star blew.

So, yes, I quit because he made me run an extra lap, AND because he made me the scapegoat for any losses the team may suffer, whether they be from my lack of hustle or not and I guess it came out as “because he made me run!” So my apologies go out to my mother, whose soccer mom dreams never came true. Really, why am I apologizing, she should be thanking me.

I carried apathy for running with me into high school where they made you run the mile in P.E. class. I was lucky enough to attend a school in which the speed you ran determined your grade. (Um chalk up that ‘F’ right now!) Every spring it was the same ordeal for me, the tragedy of receiving an F. I grew up (half) Japanese and anything less than a B was a failing grade (except in French because that wasn’t ever going to be applied to real life). I would actually examine my course schedule and try to change P.E. credits for things like CPR so that I wouldn’t have to run the mile. However, it was inevitable that I run the mile every year because it was important for the school to pull us from our alternative P.E. classes to suffer through the presidential fitness testing. (Really, why does the president care that I can hang on a pull-up bar for .002 seconds? If this has to do with a fear of communism I think that my lack of physical prowess is going to invite China to take over.) I think I may still hold the record for being the most adamant reactionary the school has ever seen, because if I was going to fail no matter what, then I was damn well going to take my time doing it.

So it came as a surprise to my family that at the age of twenty-six, out of the blue, I decided to run a marathon. Ok, I am very fond of using the word ‘run’ loosely, I might have eventually jogged portions of the event, but the front runners weren’t exactly looking over their shoulder worrying about me. I decided to run the marathon for charity in the memory of my Grandfather, so I sent out letters of intent to all my family begging for money for the cause, and once they knew about the marathon I wouldn’t be able to quit because then there would be all sorts of comments… “You quit because they made you run, right? Didn’t you know that when you signed up for this sport?” Ha ha, you guys are so clever and witty; uh so perhaps you can see why I was determined to come home with a medal to prove that I had crossed the finish line.

I finished my first marathon without ever seeing the Sag Wagon, which is the vehicle that picks you up off the course if you are too slow. It was probably pretty close to me, but I was slightly delusional by the time they sent it out on the course. I might have been 20 feet in front of it; all I know is that it didn’t pick me up. Woo Hoo! My own two feet carried me across the finish line and that meant that some poor volunteer had to put a medal around my sweaty neck, and for sanitary reasons I think the person was wearing rubber gloves; well, wouldn’t you?

Now I have this medal that is big, shiny, and heavy!  And as I am showing off the medal to everyone, lay people always ask two questions: 1) Did you win? & 2) What was your time?

Question 1) They (I don’t know who ‘they’ are, statisticians probably) say that approximately 1% of the world’s population will ever complete a marathon. So, I guess that means that I beat 6.77 billion people. Woo Hoo Yay for me!

Question 2) The average person that asks you to regale them with your time has NO idea what a good marathon time is, so just round down and don’t bother with the logistics of 3:26:19, just say 3 hours (um that is a fantastical number that should not be associated with my running time in any way shape or form); it won’t make any difference to them. Actually you could tell them that it took you 2 hours (faster than the world record) and chances are they would say “oh my god, I can’t believe that you ran for 2 hours straight.”

Running is a great sport, because unless you are an elite athlete competing for a cash prize no one really cares how fast you are. This means that the only person that really knows how well you did is you, and that means that you can lie through your teeth about your athleticism. So now, more than two decades after my “quitting incident” I have nine big, shiny, heavy medals that prove that I am not a quitter, and make everyone in my family think I could someday run the Boston Marathon. And for all they know, the reason that I won’t run it is because I think that it is too hyped, and has nothing to do with actually having to qualify.

March 2019
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