I am not a naturally athletic person. I want to be, but I’m not. Some people are, and I am incredibly annoyed at those people. I shouldn’t be, but I am, and that’s just the honest truth. To be strong and agile is a dream of mine. So much so, that it makes me insanely jealous of people who are. Like that seventy-something year old guy with the rock hard abs at a four miles race that blew past me like I was a turtle on Valium. I stared a hole into his back while he left me trotting in his dust.
Even when I was young, I was not athletic. I tried and failed miserably more than once. Seventh grade basketball? I sat on the bench 99% of the time to save me and the team any embarrassment and you can count on one finger the baskets I made that season. The only thing more embarrassing than my performance was that awful pixie haircut I had that year. Eighth grade track? Ho hum. I ran cross country and led the back of the pack. Of course, I could have been nervous about the fact that our big meet was on the grounds of a men’s minimum security prison. Oh, yes it was. If I’m lyin’ I’m dyin’. Softball? Horrible. I was somewhat decent at dodge ball, but only because I was so painfully thin I made a mighty narrow target. I wasn’t half bad at volleyball. My intramural team at college actually won our big tournament, and I still have the t-shirt to prove it. It’s my one athletic claim to fame. I basically stank at most sports, so I stuck to cheerleading and the pomp on squad. Keep in mind, back then cheerleading didn’t require all of the tumbling and pyramids it does now. If you could do a cartwheel, drop into the splits and yell loud enough to be heard across the gym, you could be a cheerleader. Naturally, I excelled at being loud. Today, I would not be skilled enough to make the cheerleading squad.
I shook my pom pons, smiled and made the most of it, but I never lost my desire to excel at something truly athletic. Even now, I dream of being a champion, even though I’m no more athletic than I was as a kid. I run several days a week, but I’m not good at it. I’m slow. My form is bad, and I struggle with mental focus. The one thing I am is consistent. I may be consistently bad, but I’m out there rain or shine, hot or cold, plugging away at my miles, trying to get a little better every month. I’m the little engine that thinks she can….if only she could quit leaning too far forward. Many days I feel like a sports dud, but the one time I feel really inspired is during the Olympics. The Olympics make me feel like anything is possible.
I don’t like to watch organized sports on television, but I love the Olympics. I will watch hour after hour of every sport. I love the stories behind the athletes. I like hearing about the folks who train for years to excel in a sport that may never bring them an endorsement or money or fame. They just want the chance to compete against the best in the world. I cry with the parents who wear holey clothing and pay on second mortgages just to pay for their kid’s skating lessons or drive their child to the hockey rink before dawn year after year. (Did you watch the Canadian skater perform Tuesday night after the death of her mother? Aye, yi, yi! The tears in my house on that one.) I live the dream with them for two weeks every four years, and when I hit the streets after a night of Olympic viewing I am inspired to run like a champion. During the past week, I’ve had some of the best runs I’ve had in a long time.
As I chug down the street, my imagination makes my feet light as feathers and takes me across the finish line a step ahead of the competition. When I run during the Olympics, I SOAR!
I have the determination and strength of Evan Lysavich. I am bold like Sean White. I have the bravery of a bob sledder, and I have the grace and style of Peggy Fleming. I am strong. I am smooth. I am a winner! I am an ATHLETE!
And if I trip on the sidewalk and fall? Well, I just blame it on Apolo Ohno, like all of the other whiny losers.