I was not athletic as a child. In gym class, when it was time to pick teams for softball, kids with broken arms were selected before me. At the beach, 99-pound weaklings kicked sand in my face. I was constantly teased for being soft, slow and sissified...by my mother.
That pretty much held true for me up to middle age. Then one day, when I was 45-years-old, I ran across Robertson Boulevard (to buy a bagel) and immediately doubled over wheezing and out of breath. I felt I had to do something. So that same day, I joined a gym. I mounted a treadmill, flipped it on and promptly fell off.
Ten years later, I heard a 2-minute story on NPR about a marathon on the ice cap in Greenland. The reporter described it as an insanely frigid event attended by the most hard-bitten, devil-may-care athletes. The news hit me like a bolt of lightning because, having by then completed nearly 40 races of marathon distance or longer, I knew it was something I could do. In fact, if I could have teleported to Kangerlussuaq, I was pretty confident I could have run the course that day. It was a very empowering revelation. So much so, that had Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura and Hulk Hogan happened along at that moment, I would have kicked sand in their faces.
Now, it would be shallow and immature if I were travelling all the way to Greenland simply to exorcise a demon from the eighth grade. The truth is, I've put all that behind me and have learned to embrace running as an opportunity to stay fit, commune with nature and enjoy the company of my friends. In fact, if I could have one wish it would be to have some of my old pals from junior high school there with me in Greenland so that we could together experience the magic and excitement of striding up to the start line of an incredible race...right before I kick their butts.