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My Experiences on the Middle School Track (I Felt Ashamed, too)

by Daniel Johnston

Lest you think your less than stellar (and often humiliating) running performances in school prevent you from being a great runner now, let me tell you a personal story.

Right now there are few people who would argue that I am not fast. After all, I’ve won several 5ks and even placed in my first half-marathon.

In middle school, though, I was one of the very slowest.

When I was in seventh grade we started doing a little bit of running. Not a ton, but a little.

A few times a year, we would do running fitness tests. Yes, the infamous Pacer tests. You had to run 20 meters, turn around, and do it again. Every time the thing beeped, it would get faster. If you missed two, you were out. But it was hard to know exactly how to pace yourself with the beeps, and it was really confusing. I finished close to last, only ahead of the really overweight kids. Luckily the coach graded based on effort.

I can only distinctly remember two quarter mile runs, although I’m sure we did more. We went outside and did one lap on the track. A quarter mile may not seem like much, but to me it was.

The first time I finished I believe second to last, in 2:45. That’s a pace of 11 minutes per mile, and I was killing myself to do it for a quarter mile!

The guy at the front would always make me jealous. I remember staring right at him with open envy. He would finish in a little over a minute without even breaking a sweat. It looked like it was nothing to him.

The second time I did it, I remember I had been working out a little bit on the stationary bike. I ended up getting 2:15 this time, a massive improvement. Still only 9 minute pace per mile, but certainly a lot better than 11.

Do I think that at that time I could’ve ran even a half of a mile? Maybe, but I doubt it. Even just that quarter mile felt like forever.

A lot of us have experiences like this where we were absolutely trounced in these types of races. Maybe not. But if so, there is no need to let it hold you back.

Imagine if I had thought of that and imagined, “I’ll never be a great runner.” The fact is, I wouldn’t be a great runner. I would’ve held myself back, and never be at the place I am today.

Don’t do that to yourself. Wear your middle (and high) school scars as a badge of honor.

After all…

they are.

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