I played rugby in college and was the captain of the team my senior year, but my time as a rugger was cut short when I tore my ACL and had to have reconstructive knee surgery.
If I stopped here and didn’t say anything else, you might be left with an image of me as an athlete — and I wouldn’t mind being thought of that way — but my tragic flaw is that I am painfully honest, especially when it’s at my own expense.
The truth is that I am not, nor have I ever been, athletic.
I played one season of T-ball in kindergarten, and a highlight reel would consist of that time I stood too close to the batter and took a bat to the head and the occasion in which I slid into first base on my face. I did play volleyball in seventh grade, but only because my mom made me — and I quit two weeks later because I took a ball to the mouth. And I hated the smell of the sweaty kneepads.On the way home, I slipped on the ice, fell and broke my kneecap. Even walking is a challenge for me.
Rugby at my college was a club sport, which meant that we had no budget, no training facility and no coach. As for being captain of the team, I can assure you that I was not chosen because I was an inspiration on the field. I was chosen because I was fun off the field. I was a solid anchor in chugging contests, and I wrote a song called the “Hairdo Rap” that was much beloved and performed by the team at every opportunity.
You may not need more evidence that I am not athletic, but I need to get it all out.
I didn’t tear my ACL during an awesome rugby play, nope. I did it by jogging off the field after practice and falling into a hole because I wasn’t looking where I was going. Six weeks later, I got off crutches and I went out with a friend to celebrate. On the way home, I slipped on the ice, fell and broke my kneecap. Even walking is a challenge for me.
Since breaking my kneecap in 1990, I have done very little exercise. I’ve dabbled with biking on occasion, but I fell off my bike and into a storm drain and couldn’t get my foot out of the clip pedals. And another time, I lost control and ended up in a ditch. Though I haven’t been blessed with raw physical athleticism or even basic coordination, I was blessed with a decent metabolism and general good health so I never felt I really had to exercise.
But then I hit middle age.
Suddenly, my body was shifting in strange ways and I could no longer drop five pounds by skipping dessert once a week. My weight was basically holding steady, but my clothes felt tighter and my body just didn’t feel quite right. I generally eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, so there wasn’t some obvious change to be made there. I realized in horror that the only thing left to do was exercise.
So, this past July, I started walking and running using the Couch to 5K app, forcing myself to go every other day. I walked at a decent pace, but I ran only slightly faster than I walked and my internal monologue every minute of exercise every day was, “I hate this. I can’t do this. I hate this. I can’t do this.”
It’s been four months now, and I continue to run every other day. But if you’re looking for some sort of insightful revelation that you can put on a poster, you have come to the wrong place. I’m no more graceful that before and I breathe heavily and I sweat and my face gets red and it’s awful.
The only difference is that now my internal monologue is, “I hate this. Keep moving. I hate this. Keep moving.” I keep waiting for that runner’s high you hear so much about, but I haven’t felt it and the only thing that keeps me going is the fear of losing my progress.. I don’t like to run, but I like to be able to say that I ran. I suppose that’s a victory of some sort. And victory is for athletes, right?