Tuesday, July 14, 2009

take that, President's Challenge!

If you're a child of the '80s, you probably remember the President's Challenge in gym class. And if you were unathletic, like me, you probably feel a twinge of dread even now just thinking about it.

I'm sure whichever administration created the twice-yearly fitness test probably wasn't trying to traumatize a whole generation of young people by the sheer thought of running around the track, but unfortunately, for me at least, that was the end result.

At the start of every year in gym beginning in the sixth grade, fresh from spending my summers sitting in the sun at Preston Beach in Massachusetts, leisurely biking or rollerblading around town, all doughy and soft, the first thing we'd have to do in gym class was take a series of fitness tests ending in running four times around the track to complete a mile as fast as we could. And to top it off, our gym teacher, Mr. Roland, would urge us to make it under 10 minutes, clocking each loop with all the empathy of a boot-camp drill sergeant preparing us for battle.

Of course the track stars and skinny guys and girls usually made it pretty easily. I, on the other hand, usually came in last or in the last group, pains in my side, red-faced, and in one particularly awkward stage, ready to puke on the grass. You'd think if they'd at least let us train up to it, say, maybe having us do once around the track, then twice, then three times, leading up to the fourth week where we finally were asked to go all out, but no--they threw us into the deep end to see if we'd make it, or die trying.

It wasn't pretty, and thinking back now, it's probably why I hung up the running sneaks for the last 20 years.

So I kind of chuckled today at practice when they told us we were going to run the mile, as fast as we could, twice, just to find out our best times.

No fear shook through my bones, thankfully, since after having run a marathon, nothing in the realm of running scares me that much anymore. But as I talked to my fellow teammates, they had the same stories of being last in that gym class 1-mile test.

Maybe in every marathoner, or at least of the unlikeliest variety, there's a 11-year-old girl or guy trying to redeem themselves and prove that yes, they too can run a fast mile, or 26.

So I ran today, as fast as I could, clocking in my first mile at 8:54. Not bad considering I'd usually run 11-minute miles and the fastest I'd run in a race was 10:08 in the recent Scotland 10K. The next one was a little slower: 9:56 or so, but still not bad. Take that, Mr. Roland, with your knee-length tube socks, short shorts with your tee-shirt tucked in too tight!

On the outside, I was still panting and red-faced, but my inner tween wasn't breaking a sweat.


  1. Oh man, I grew up in the 90's but we totally had to do that too! Very funny post.

  2. HA Meg - that was GREAT! I still despise that man and everytime I run I think of our gym class mile! Go you!

  3. hey! so nice meeting you on Friday night, happy i found your blog! good luck with your training- if you want to check out my blog it's

    happy running!