Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why I Don't Like Running

The answer isn't "because it sucks."

Even though it kinda does.

So in primary school I used to be a lot more active because I was a small child, and small children are like miniature nuclear reactors and if they don't expel copious amounts of energy they explode and kill anyone in a 10m radius. Somehow, despite being like every other kid who runs around, I got fatter than others (I've naturally fixed that now). So despite my efforts not to irradiate my neighbourhood with Smallchildium 245 I just wasn't very good at it. But sometimes things can be fun even if you're not good at them, right? Right.

Well running is compulsory in school. PE classes demand that I embarrassingly participate in sports regardless of aptitude. That would just be a distant unpleasant memory but they didn't just make it compulsory but competitive.

Every year there's a sports carnival where everyone is forced to compete in multiple events and most of all: running. It isn't just a bad class for the entire school, it is a spectator event for everyone's parents to come out and cheer on their kids and film it for prosperity on VHS tapes they've long since stashed away in some chest in the back of the closet along with their only semi-working VHS player they'll uncover one day and relive all the horribly low-quality nostalgia. Thing is, I know I suck. My parents know I suck. My classmates know I suck. Why are you forcing me to show off how much I suck in front of their entire school and their relatives? It didn't motivate me to get better at running, it only made me want to hide whenever it was Sports Day...

Forced competition isn't good for self esteem, especially when you know you're going to lose. See, the only person who really benefits from a school-wide competition is the people who know they're going to win and no one else's parents really need to be there to film it. I suppose you could congratulate the middle kids on their "hard work and effort. It's good that you tried" but when you're so bad and embarrassed in front of hundreds of people "you tried" doesn't give a positive reinforcement about effort it just makes trying seem pointless and leaves a negative association.

I have two 2nd place ribbons. Each one is a slap in the face.

Because an entire year group can't run one on one race track at the same time we had divisions based on skill. I believe I was in E division. That is the worst one. I won those ribbons in year 6 and 7. Coming 2nd doesn't really mean much to a person if there's only two people in the race including yourself (year 6). The next year I one-up'd myself and managed to actually beat someone in a race of 3. Problem is that kid had had heart surgery a few years back... I had only just beaten him.

I don't remember which race it was but at one point I was just so far behind, struggling, tired, and humiliated by the fact that the race had basically finished already and every second I spent running was just another one where every scream and cheer was directed at me. Everyone was looking at me fail and I didn't take it well. I stopped. I couldn't do it. I'd already lost, why even bother to run those last 15 metres?

There wasn't one. I still can't think of a reason.

They didn't let me live that down until I graduated and moved onto highschool where no one remembered it had ever happened.

Competing in general isn't pointless... as long as you have some basic skill in what you're doing. I knew I wasn't good at sports. I had little co-ordination, I wasn't very fit, and I hated doing things in front of others. The idea of enforcing sports into schools is probably now firmly embedded because we're trying to teach kids to be physically active and healthy and that's good... but the way the entire idea is enforced is terrible. It praises the naturally athletic and it humiliates the pudgy and emotionally insecure. Every year I'd be forced to compete. I tried so hard not to be part of it because every single year it just drilled into my brain: you are a loser. Every single one of your peers is better than you. You suck.

Maybe... just maybe... I'd be a fitter person and enjoy sports so much more if only they hadn't forced me to do it in school. Running made me hate myself and gave the other kids a quantifiable measure to make me feel inferior to them.

In highschool these sports carnivals were less enforced. As the years went by I managed to get out of more and more events until I didn't compete at all and took the day as a day off. The less I competed in sporting events I knew I couldn't do well in the more I started liking myself as a person.

I don't hate all sports, even though I generally don't want to do them these days. Team sports were fun because I wasn't singled out and ridiculed. I could participate and it wasn't me losing it was the team losing. No one pointed and laughed me afterwards if the team lost. I didn't have to be good I just needed to contribute. I liked team sports...

But running is one of the worst things that ever happened to me as a child and it took me years to recover from the emotional pain it put me through...

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