Tonight I experienced what could be my most significant NSV – that’s “non scale victory” for you non-Weight Watchers message board members – since starting my weight loss journey back in November of 2007.
I laced up my sneakers, walked back to my old high school, and I ran the DREADED MILE.
That’s right. The track next to the school that they make everyone run during gym class. The one that caused me nothing but humiliation year after year as I watched every single one of my classmates jog past me while I huffed and puffed my way around the 0.25 mile stretch of concrete.
As part of our annual “physical fitness test,” the gym teachers would bark at us to run four times around the track, clicking a stop watch as each student completed their laps and logging their time on a clipboard. I was always one of the last students – if not the last – to drag my feet across the finish line. But what’s worse is that each time I neared the end to begin my next lap, I’d have to listen to my classmates sitting in the bleachers, snickering and uttering the oh-so-many colorful weight-related nicknames they had for me under their breath.
I remember purposely taking a leisurely stroll around the entire track because a.) it was embarrassing to attempt to run and have to stop every 30 seconds and b.) I wanted to make it seem as though I was just simply too cool to run the track. I didn’t care about gym class (as my “C” report card grades for physical education would suggest), and I certainly didn’t give a hoot about making record time for the physical fitness test. I remember eavesdropping on some of my classmates’ times – 9 minutes for the football players, 12 minutes for the cheerleaders – and I am saddened to report that, one year, I believe I came in at just under 25 minutes.
I figured if I put up the facade that I didn’t want to run the mile, and not that I actually couldn’t, I’d head back to my locker after class with just a little bit of my dignity still intact. But then, of course, there were the other fitness challenges I had to endure, including dangling like a fish from the pull-up bar (I still to this day have never successfully completed one) or turning red in the face as I struggled to touch my toes for the “Sit and Reach.” And, of course, I’d always get paired off with one of the snotty girls to spot me as I managed to complete all of 17 sit-ups in the timed period.
But the mile always seemed the most daunting. I pretty much had a panic attack when I was forced to take a one-credit gym class in college and learned that the final test would be – you guessed it! – running a mile on the campus’ indoor track. I remember fighting back tears as the jock girls passed me over and over again, slowing down to encourage me and assure me that “I could do it.” I ultimately had to lie to the gym teacher and tell her I ran two more laps than I actually did because the entire class was finished and staring at me and I was just moments away from a very public, very humiliating breakdown.
It wasn’t just that I was ashamed that my 250+ pound body and sedentary lifestyle were preventing me from completing a routine fitness test that took my classmates less than 15 minutes to finish. It was also that I couldn’t stop all of my repressed memories of being tormented for my weight throughout elementary, middle, and high school by the same kids in the same school in the same small town from flooding back into consciousness. What hurt the most was that not being able to finish that mile in college make me feel as though nothing in my life had changed. At 21 years of age I was still the “Heffer” they called me as a kid – and there was no doubt in my mind that I always would be.
I’ve been thinking about returning to my high school and running the track for quite some time – especially since I still live in my hometown and it’s practically right around the corner. In the spirit of my fresh start on Weight Watchers this month, I decided that tonight was the night. Time to stop putting things off until tomorrow – or, as is too often the case, the 12th of never. I had to prove to myself that I could do this, once and for all.
I am beyond proud to report that not only did I complete my four laps around the track, but that I RAN the entire time. When I was finished, I found myself fighting back an overwhelming display of emotions again…but this time, they were feelings of pride and accomplishment. To some it’s just a patch of dirt, but to me, that track symbolizes the pain of a miserable childhood where my fat prevented me from ever fitting in.
By finally conquering that one-mile run, I feel as though I’m able to let just a little bit of my painful past fade away…and I’m one step closer to fully embracing the person I am today.
The best part? Running that mile was truly effortless. Suddenly the track didn’t seem so scary anymore, and as I rounded the final lap I found myself thinking that I could easily run four more. Halfway through I realized I forgot to check my watch so I could time myself, so instead I made a mental note of the songs I listened to as I ran. I did it in less than four songs – one of which, appropriately, was Rob Zombie’s “Never Gonna Stop Me” – and with song times of 2:58, 4:05, 2:53, and 50 seconds of the final song, I made it in a little more than 10 minutes.
I was bursting with excitement, so I decided to take a victory lap around my two-square-mile hometown. I’ve jogged through my neighborhood a million times before, but tonight I was seeing everything with a fresh perspective. I ran past the windows to the high school cafeteria, which suddenly seemed so small. I ran past some of our old high school haunts, and they were swarmed with kids half my age. I even ran past a former classmate of mine and, fortunately for him, he was one of the few who didn’t “moo” at me in the hallways.
That chapter of my life is long gone, and it’s time for me to realize that I’m not that girl anymore. My 10-minute(ish) mile just proved it!