First Grade, First Mile

First grade was the first time students were introduced to the mile run. Now first graders were not required to run the mile, in fact they were not even required to travel the whole distance of a mile. Our teacher, Ms. White, walked us outside to a seemingly infinite field of grass surrounded by a huge dirt circle. The class of children, still wearing their t-shirts and light jackets and cargo shorts and jorts that their parents had dressed them in that morning, were going to be running in place of recess today.

Ms. White lined us up somewhere on the curve, being the closest side of the track to the school, and told us to grab a straw after every lap we completed so that we could count it all up at the end. I guess counting to four was still a difficult task for us, so maybe we should have been spending more time in the classroom, and less time outside. But that wasn't for a first grader to decide. She also reminded us that recess was only 45 minutes, and that if anyone was still on the track at that time, they would be called in and forced to stop.

Of the students, some were athletic, most were not athletic, but not one knew what they were getting into. Ms. White shouted "Go!" and all the anxious kids who thought they could win this sped off. My friend Daniel and I were not as arrogant and knew perfectly well that we weren't cut out for physical activity. We jogged onward at a pace more comparable to walking.

Ahead of us, the athletic kids were beginning to realize the gravity of their situation. They had completed most of an entire lap, and it was certainly the most they had ever run in one single burst of energy. They collected their straws and began to walk. Now, I don't want to set up a predictable Tortoise and the Hare story, so I'll tell you now: at no point do Daniel and I catch up to the athletic kids. The athletic kids don't take a mid-race nap and let their pride become their downfall. The athletic kids don't lap us! So there is one small victory. Back to the race.

Just after lap three my lungs begin to hurt. Daniel and I have been run/walking Jeff Galloway style the entire time. I was clutching my straws with all my might as if that would help me somehow. Daniel looked over to me as I struggled and said words that would inspire me forever: "Okay, time to run."

And we did, we took off. Ten meters. Then another then meters! Ten more meters! ANOTHER TEN METERS! 


Then we walked again. We had maybe another half lap to go, probably more. My lungs were cold and dry and certainly asthmatic, I had been taking a purple inhaler every morning and night. All the child stars had already finished, all the normal students had called it quits after their second straw. But Daniel and I wanted it. We had to make it and we were certainly nearing the bell. 


We we're on the other side of the track now, still walking. Only 200 meters, a unit I didn't know existed, left to go. We could see our teacher and classmates sitting in the grass on the far side of the field. That's when Daniel decided it was time to push it. He ran off, legs flailing uncontrollably, arms in whatever position he decided made sense somehow, head nodding forward and backward as if that was helping him somehow. I probably imagined the motion to be right, graceful even. And it made me take off too.


I ran. I was not going to catch up, I had waited far too long. I couldn't feel my legs anymore, but I knew I was moving forward still. The finish was coming up, and surprisingly quick too. I pushed and pushed. As I approached, everyone in the class stood up, not to cheer, but upon the request of Ms. White who told them to so they could get ready to leave. Meanwhile I was soaring. I could see Ms. White holding out a single red straw for me. I stumbled forward and grabbed it.


This was it. This was the last straw. I had done the possible, and it felt so good.


Also I know now that we only ran 1600 meters, so if you want to be all technical about it talk to my teacher Ms. White.

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