How It All Began

>> Monday, January 12, 2009

Pharmie has said for a while that I need to tell this little story. She says, “Everyone thinks you’re so speedy, but you started off not knowing what the heck you were doing.” Here’s how I started running.

I ran the mile for the “Presidential Physical Fitness Test” in Phy Ed during my first semester of High School (Fall 1995). I was the first to finish, but it was a deplorable time. I hit the line and knew I was about to die. Right behind me was a new friend, Tim, who was currently out for cross country. He told me, “Not bad Steve. You should come out for track in the spring.”

I thought about it. I had never been part of a team. I played 2 summers of tennis in middle school, and about a month of basketball in 5th grade. I thought I’d give track a whirl.

But I’m no dummy. I wanted to be “ready” for the first day of track practice. So sometime over Christmas break (around New Year 1996), I went out for my first training run. I thought, “I think I’ll run to the corner and back.” Now, I grew up in the middle of nowhere on a tiny gravel road, so for all you know, “the corner” could have been a mile or more away...

...but “the corner” was about a quarter mile away. Oooh, feel the burn. I hopped on the gravel road, noted the time on my watch (so I could track my time), and took off. I barely made it that quarter mile - I was huffing and puffing when I got there. I don’t remember what my time was, but I remember being pleased. I took a moment to revel in the great workout, and then I did a run/walk/run on the quarter mile back home.

The first day of track practice rolls around, and Coach puts me in a group of other newbies. “You guys: head down 22, go around the golf course, and come back. That’s 2 miles.” Ummm, AROUND the golf course? TWO MILES? Coach, you’re insane.

On that first 2 mile run, I got half way through (to the far corner of the golf course) before I had to stop and walk. I was still ahead of a sophomore, so I was pretty proud of that. Over that last mile home, I think I stopped to walk about 5 times. But I made it back to the school.

One official workout down, with no idea how many thousands of workouts lie in my future.

Here was the team photo from that time in my life (my freshman year of track: 1996):

I didn’t get SUPER awkward until later that year. Here’s the team cross country photo from sophomore year (where I’m ALL hair and glasses):

I started getting speedier, but I was fighting injuries. (Huh, what’s new?) Here’s an appearance in the local paper during the next track season:

Sweet. I forgot we broke our H.S. indoor record.

(People think I eat A LOT these days. But that’s so “2009 Steve” has bigger legs than “1996 Steve.” Did you SEE those twigs in that photo above?!?)

One last newspaper clipping from the next cross country season (my last season as a runner). Here are the sibling pairs out for CC from our small high school:

Look to the far right. In the back row. That’s Pharmie and I right next to one another. I still had big hair. Pharmie still had bangs:

After that season of cross country (fall 1997), I threw in the towel. I was consistently injured, and I was frustrated. So I stopped running for about 5 years. (I didn’t completely stop running: I would run 2-3 miles about 4 times a year.) And then in 2002 or 2003, I started running a little more. Then biking a few years later. Then duathlons and triathlons in 2006.

The rest, as they say, is history on my blog.

The Moral? We sometimes need to step back and take a look at the big picture. We get too caught up in the necessity of smaller victories: How was this 5K slower than my last? Why did that run feel so tough when it seemed like a walk in the park 3 weeks ago? Etc, etc. We don’t look far enough back to see where we’ve come from. So step back and take a look at YOUR big picture.

What does your “big picture” say? Mine says this:

I can remember: When a 1/4 mile run was the workout to prepare me for a whole season. When a 2 mile run was a worse fate than death. When I was nothing but hair and glasses.

If you have an embarrassing photo and story from when you started running / swimming / biking / tri-ing, post it on your blog and let me know. I LOVE hearing self-deprecating stories and photos from when we were all newbies! In fact, in about a month, I think I’ll officially hold a contest for the “Best Newbie Story & Embarrassing Photo Combo” on my blog. So dig up that first 5K photo, or your first triathlon where you wore your bike helmet backward, or when you started swimming with braces and glasses that took up your entire face, etc, etc. There will be more to come on a blog-wide contest, with the winner determined by votes from the public! Ooh, this should be FUN!!

In the meantime, remember where you’ve been. Remember where you’ve come from. We’ve all come so very far. Never lose sight of that!


chia 5:05 AM, January 12, 2009  

LMAO, are you sure that's '96?

I'm fortunate enough to not have my "start" chronicled. I was about 210 pounds and it was 2005. That was a lot of jiggly bits and wobbly matters!

I, as well, had bigger legs in 2005 compared to my 120 pound frame in 1996 ;-).

joyRuN 6:08 AM, January 12, 2009  

My "big picture" says OH HEEELLLLL NO!

Were you & Pharmie HS sweethearts? I think I've just gone all gushy...

Missy 6:49 AM, January 12, 2009  

I love it that Pharmie is still in so many of your pictures with you, through the years, love it! What a road and that IS some hair:)

teacherwoman 6:55 AM, January 12, 2009  

Thanks for sharing Steve! Love the photos as well!:)

Maria 7:19 AM, January 12, 2009  

Loved the pictures, but I think I'm going to have to pass on the photo contest, I just started tris this year, but lets say that pictures from high school are not good ones!

Marlene 7:21 AM, January 12, 2009  

Great story and pictures! Thanks for sharing. I wish I had a story like that, but I just started running 2 years ago ... hmmm, I'll see what I can dig up.

Charlotte 8:06 AM, January 12, 2009  

You said "Phy Ed" - you are soooo Minnesotan;) Loved all the pics. I could rival you for awkward though. Let me see if I can dig up my old gymnastics photos - I've got the hair (bangs too!), huge glasses AND a leotard to boot. Egads.

AddictedToEndorphins 8:07 AM, January 12, 2009  

Wow! Very inspiring! Thanks for sharing. I always wonder what would have happened if I had started 8 years ago.

Sonia 8:15 AM, January 12, 2009  

Great story, glad you made it out of these horrible glasses! LOL

I posted my about my first cross country experience not so long ago... It's not super embarassing but still pretty akward looking!

Sarah 8:16 AM, January 12, 2009  

I did a whole post on this very topic. I'm all big hair and braces. It's classic.

Kelly 8:23 AM, January 12, 2009  

I don't know that I have any embarrassing photos... ;) I'm sure I could find one or two. I think I'm still fairly new though, but this post was fun. I remember signing up for two years of dance in high school so I wouldn't have to run in gym class. I avoided it like the plague. I always used the "I think I've got asthma" excuse, gym teachers probably hated that one.

Stef 8:36 AM, January 12, 2009  

Great post and story! I would probably enter the contest. Those HS photos crack me UP!

Jess 8:44 AM, January 12, 2009  

Oh my god, my parents have the most awkward picture of me ever from swim team when I was in like third grade. I will have to call her and get her to mail it me because's just that cringe worthy!

Marcy 8:57 AM, January 12, 2009  

Awwwhhhh homie I can totally relate to the big glasses. Except I had braces to go along with them. And about 283173617836178 zits. YIKES

X-Country2 9:16 AM, January 12, 2009  

Aww, you and Pharmie were so cute! I love when couples grew to be adults together. (And the fact that she dug you even with those glasses proves that it's true love!)

tfh 9:23 AM, January 12, 2009  

I love those "casually hug the knee" poses they had us do for our cross-country photos. I can't remember my first run, though. Maybe I've blocked it out?

sRod 10:22 AM, January 12, 2009  

Look at you doling out inspiration.

I embarrassing race pictures...but nothing spectacular like your collection here.

RooBabs 10:23 AM, January 12, 2009  

Love the walk down memory lane! How cute that you and Pharmie grew up together. I was in 7th grade when my husband was a senior in high school (many miles away), so it's probably good that we never met at that time. He had a sweet wavy mullet and was a lifeguard, meanwhile I had permed hair with super-stiff bangs, and was so small that I bought my clothes in the little girls department (not so cool).

I love the idea of a contest, but I'm not sure that I could dig up any awkward photos (not that I wasn't awkward, I'm just not sure that evidence exists)- maybe I could scan something from my yearbook, though. I wasn't a runner back then, but I did gymnastics, cheerleading and dance. Let me just say, I wasn't exactly the epitome of popularity, LOL.

Emily 10:30 AM, January 12, 2009

Not a great story but a great picture on this link! I love throwback posts. I will have to post the story of how I started running.

Cute pics!

Karen 10:47 AM, January 12, 2009  

I'm digging out my 1985 high school XC photo right now to do a post. Nylon shorts and top with frosted hair and mullet--oh and 88 lbs. I did have my ASICS 101 gels shoes on though...STYLN'

Tenacious T 11:26 AM, January 12, 2009  

You went to USC? We probably ran against each other! I'm from St. James and ran track/cc from 95-99.

Tenacious T 11:27 AM, January 12, 2009  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jen 11:30 AM, January 12, 2009  

Great story! You've definitely come a long way. The pics of you and Pharmie are soooo cute. :D Thanks for sharing!

Kelly 11:39 AM, January 12, 2009  

a) "Boys track team looks good at meet"... WHAT KIND OF HORRIBLE HEADLINE IS THAT?!

b) You should do this contest. I am SOOO in (although, the photos won't be as funny since they were all taken within this millennium).

Tammy 11:49 AM, January 12, 2009  

I went the other direction. My very first 5K time was a full 8 minutes faster than my most recent.

Of course, I was 26 years old and basically lived at the gym back then... I'll have to hunt for some of those photos.

Jess 11:54 AM, January 12, 2009  

Great pics and great story. Very entertaining.

Kim 12:00 PM, January 12, 2009  

i am speechless. thanks for the incredibly hysterical photos. fantastic story steve!

TRI TO BE FUNNY 12:04 PM, January 12, 2009  

You're still all hair and glasses :-)

Fizzgig 12:44 PM, January 12, 2009  

omg that is hilarious! I have no idea where any of my school pics are, you did a great job

MtngirlinCali 1:01 PM, January 12, 2009  

Ha! You neglected to mention your newbie times, Steve. You probably neglected to mention them because even though they were slow to you, they are probably far faster than my fastest days! :)

I'm going home tonight to post my embarassing first triathlon/race report. With bad picture and all.

Carolina John 1:09 PM, January 12, 2009  

Cool story, steve. I did the same thing, running the mile on the track team freshman year. i was also mostly hair and glasses. it was 1990, though. I bailed before cross country started, but now use the same 5 mile training run from the high school. and i think that was before they had camera's, nobody ever took a picture of me running then.

But i will say that my fasted mile in a track meet was 5:50. now my average time is like 10 mins. So you should tell the story of how you got your speed down to the sub-18 min 5k's.

greyhound 1:09 PM, January 12, 2009  

This explains a lot.

I mean A.LOT.

Pharmie is so docile about you and your bloggy antics because . . . well, she's had a lot of time to get used to it. We ask, "How did Steve ever end up with someone like Pharmie," and we see, "Oh, it was a really little school and she made her selection early." Sample size has a lot to do with that, no doubt.

b 1:43 PM, January 12, 2009  

Fantastic insite into your running heritage Steve...bravo!

Coach Liz 3:29 PM, January 12, 2009  

Those glasses were HUGE! I am going to have to dig up my high school swim team pics and see if there are any doozies in there for the contest.

Michelle 3:32 PM, January 12, 2009  

I love this post Steve!!! Big hair and glasses is what it was all about in the late 90's!!!

I must dig up some old photos!!! Perhaps? Maybe?

Happy Monday!!!

Greg 3:45 PM, January 12, 2009  

What a post - i like all the funny ones but it is nice to know what a little hard work can do

Alisa 3:59 PM, January 12, 2009  

I love this story.

We had a similar conversation over brunch at the blogger brunch meetup.

Thanks for the story!

Glaven Q. Heisenberg 6:30 PM, January 12, 2009  

You have guts, man. If those pictures were of me, I'd burn them.

When my mother saw my HS yearbook picture, she said, "Awwww ... you look just like David Eisenhower."

Mom could be so cruel.

I let my hair grow for 15 months and let my freak flag fly and then Mom said,

"You look like David Eisenhower with long hair."

But now it's 2009 and more people read MY blog than David Eisenhower's, so WHO'S LAUGHING NOW, MOM?!?

ECrunnergirl 6:48 PM, January 12, 2009  

I just got goose bumps Steve! Thanks for sharing your pics!! Very cute!! Funny, I just blogged about my past and present level of running.....that's what the new year did for me. Made me reflect on the runner I was to the runner I am now! Thanks for that great post!!

audgepodge 11:27 PM, January 12, 2009  

You post the best pics! I have to say, it is really nice to hear about your humble beginnings. Alas, I have no funny pics to share (thank goodness!)

Sports Endurance Enthusiast 12:23 AM, January 13, 2009  

Dude, if you went to USC, does this mean that you're a Trojan? And aren't your colors supposed to be Red and Yellow?

Anne 6:45 AM, January 13, 2009  

Very nice post. Sometimes nostalgia is a great thing to stay motivated. And, hey, you'd be a hit in LA since everyone roots for USC!

AKA Alice 10:50 AM, January 13, 2009  

Love the photos and the contest idea. The hair is THE BEST! Did you run in the glasses?

Trishie 10:57 AM, January 13, 2009  

How fun that you and Pharmie have pictures together from high school! Great post Steve, and such a good reminder to remember that no matter where you are, you're a long way from where you started.

BeachRunner 12:24 PM, January 13, 2009  

Awesome post. Way to open up the archives. Great stuff, and I think there is a lesson in there somewhere. Right?

Alili 12:31 PM, January 13, 2009  

This is fantastic! I was too terrified to run cross country because running was too hard, but I was an all conference high jumper--I had to run 12 whole steps, several times in fact! :)

Blyfinn 1:13 PM, January 13, 2009  

Thanks for the great background. Awesome story.

21stCenturyMom 1:13 PM, January 13, 2009  

It took me 3 weeks to work up to a 1 mile run when I started and I was so proud of myself. I'm proud of you, too :-)

Anonymous,  1:48 PM, January 13, 2009  

I think I like you better, the way you were....

brendaj 4:42 PM, January 13, 2009  

Great photo history. I used to run the 4x800 in indoor track in high school. what a fun event!

aron 5:33 PM, January 13, 2009  

i LOVE this story!! the pics are great and looove that you and pharmie are next to each other :)

BaddApple 7:30 PM, January 13, 2009  

Great story. Nice you married your hometown sweetie. I will work on my story for the contest. Mine won't be about running. Because I just started running ~6 years ago. I hope that works.

BaddApple 7:34 PM, January 13, 2009  

Whats wrong with Phy Ed? What else is it called? PS most of my mullet pics have been burned.

Ordinarylife 6:53 AM, January 14, 2009  

Fantastic post!

But I think I will stay clear of any history posts.

Diana 2:18 PM, January 14, 2009  

Awesome post. We do tend to lose sight of where we came from. I never ran in school, I was too busy getting stoned...I went to high school in the '70's! To be doing what I do now still freaks me out, but it's a much better high!

RunningLaur 9:19 PM, January 14, 2009  

awesome post!! This is a great contest idea too. Not only go you get to look back, but also totally embarass yourself in the Internet forever. If I can find a good photo I'm in.

RBR 10:14 AM, January 15, 2009  

You and Pharmie are just too darn adorable! You had some big hair, but I think my 80's hair outclassed you. (and could have possibly eclipsed you)

If someone had asked me to run 2 miles in the late 90's I would have asked them to pass the pipe because they were smoking some good stuff! LOL!

J~Mom 9:53 PM, January 18, 2009  

I love the history!!! I hope I didn't miss that contest! 10:52 PM, January 19, 2009  

Okay, put my old high school basketball photo up, check it out!

Runner Leana 2:12 PM, January 22, 2009  

That's hilarious, thanks for sharing! I hated running...a mile seemed like forever to me back in middle school. Who knew I'd actually semi-enjoy it now?

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