Running the Reservoir in Reverse

On Saturday mornings, I like to sleep in, Modern Philosophers.  I hate to get out of bed because every minute under the covers is a minute I am avoiding my morning run.

My love/hate relationship with running goes back decades.  The other day, I was telling a friend that because my high school was on the Upper East Side, we used to have gym class in Central Park.

I know that sounds awesome, but you probably think that because you’ve never heard of the Central Park Reservoir.

running, fitness, Modern PhilosopherThat 1.58 mile loop was my high school bully.  A couple of times a year, an overly enthusiastic Physical Education teacher would send us on a forced run around the landmark.  I hated this activity more than anything we even did in gym.

And that’s saying a lot when you consider I fractured my wrist playing European Handball in gym during my Sophomore year.

Teenage Austin was not a runner.  Heck, he wasn’t much of an athlete.

I played baseball, but I was a horrible hitter, so I never had to run the bases.  It’s hard to get winded trudging back to the dugout in defeat after striking out yet again.

Sure, I did some running when I played outside with the few friends I had, but it’s not like we were training for a marathon.  We were playing touch football or hide and seek.  Those activities require nothing more than a little sprinting spaced out between long periods of slacking off and hardly moving.

Being forced to run 1.58 miles really pissed me off.  I understood that going to this outstanding prep school in Manhattan was supposed to be a life altering adventure, but I didn’t want the big change to be dying of a heart attack in Central Park.

My skinny legs and weak lungs wanted no part of this task.  I just wished to wander off into the park for half an hour and catch up with my classmates for the walk back to school.  However, I wasn’t enough of a rebel to try something like that.  Plus, my horrible sense of direction would have led to my spending the rest of my life lost in the park.

health, humor, Modern PhilosopherThe only thing that got me to complete the loop was a fear of finishing last.  I could not face that sort of humiliation.  So I just made sure to stay ahead of the really out of shape kids in my class.

It did not help my confidence that several of my classmates were on the cross country team.  They sprinted around the loop twice in the time it took my to struggle around once.

And there were hot dog vendors set up along the route.  How fair is that?  All I wanted was to grab a dog and a root beer, sit down on one of the many benches, and enjoy the view.

Philosophically speaking, what’s the point of running around something so beautiful instead of making the time to take it all in and appreciate my surroundings?

Needless to say, that argument did not work on my teacher.

But I did finish the loop every time I was forced to conquer it.  And I never came in last.

Do I find it at all ironic that my favorite running path now is along the water?  Not at all because I run by choice, there’s no middle aged man timing me (other than myself), and I don’t have to wear that ridiculous reversible shirt with the school logo on it.

I still hate running, but at least I have a decade of reasons under my belt for the hatred.  Back then, I was just a wimpy teenager who didn’t want to put in the effort.

Those were the days…

Did you have a hated high school activity that still haunts you to this day?

About Austin

Native New Yorker who's fled to the quiet life in Maine. I write movies, root for the Yankees, and shovel lots of snow.
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10 Responses to Running the Reservoir in Reverse

  1. kristianw84 says:

    I can understand your hatred. I would have also wanted to take in the beautiful scenery.

    I was a marching band geek in high school, and the percussion band manager thought he was a Drill Sargent. We always started the day with sprints and push-ups, and I would question how that would make me a better xylophonist. As punishment for questioning the almighty, he would make me do squats every time I had a break in the music during practice. He would say “one more time,” after we finished the song, but “one more time” always turned into fifty. I still cringe when anyone asks me to do something “one more time.”

  2. beth says:

    I have never been a runner and even the short runs we did were a nightmare for me

  3. Glenda says:

    I barely made it to high school, and I never finished it. I was bullied so much because I was an ugly redhead that I couldn’t handle it. Couldn’t make myself go in. So, yea, the few times I showed up for P.E., I hated pretty much anything that was being done!

  4. Glenda says:

    Thank you. (I’m sorry I vented on your dime, Austin. I’m definitely regretting it.)

  5. markbialczak says:

    Our gym teacher in junior high had the bright idea of making us run around the school bus circle, Austin. I was not a fan of this exercise. I wanted to play some sort of sport, yes, even European Handball! Karma bit me again when I arrived upstate for my freshman year in college and my roommate informed me that he was a cross country runner and tried to enlist me for his pre-breakfast runs along the country side. Not a great start to our relationship … even with my no thank you he was up hours before I wanted to open an eye so he could run run run. His name was not Forrest but his major was Natural Resources.

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