Sometimes you need to unlearn before you can learn

Running as fast I could, I disappeared into the deep woods in a game of hide and seek. Trekking though swampy waters, I searched for the perfect hiding spot. It has been fifty years, but I recall the youthful happiness of playing hide and seek in the fields and forests surrounding our house with my brother and neighbors, Kent, Carl and Clark. It is funny how running seemed so natural and so much fun at that time. It is funny how happiness paired with running disappeared from my life for the last fifty years.

This past week my pal Paul suggested I read An Accidental Athlete by John “The Penguin” Bingham. I had posted on Facebook that I have never been an athlete or runner in one of my Couch to 5K progress statuses. Paul thought the book might be something that would inspire me.  I downloaded the book to my Nook and was hooked. As the pages passed by, I saw more and more of myself in John’s words

The Penguin’s story of wanting to excel in sports but just never quite being good enough hits home. The memories of being one of the last kids chosen for a baseball or football team are all too familiar. The institutionalized stigma of being an outcast in the public school system Physical Education Class stings today. You see, that was my experiences throughout my school years.

The bright side of John Bingham’s story is that in late midlife after a sedentary life and several emergency room visits he changed his life.  The unlikely change element was his decision to improve his health and lose weight through running. His words speak to me because he freely admits that he is truly mediocre and slow. In spite of those facts, he released himself from a life of sedentary confinement. You see, that is exactly where I see myself.

I have come to understand over the past three years as I became more active that I have to unlearn much of what I have learned from my life experiences. Those grade school, junior high and high school years drilled into me that as the smart guy I could never succeed in athletics. Those 12 years of education kept me in sedentary confinement for the next 37 years. Actually, I kept myself in that confinement.

Back to running, I run as fast as I can today through the woods and along swampy waters, most certainly slower than in my youth. Yes, I recall the good times on that Washington Township farm outside of Alliance, Ohio. I am actually having fun just as I did in 1962. I know that it is what I do today that makes a big impact in my life. I know that living in the past and letting the past control the present and future is a losing proposition.

In the Introduction of An Accidental Athlete, I came across the following paragraph. It hooked me on the book. The paragraph speaks to me very loudly today.  I hope that you find it as motivational as I do.

See, it isn’t what you do that makes you an athlete. It is not how fast or how far you go. It is waking up every day knowing that you will take on whatever the world holds for you that day as an athlete. You will embrace the challenges-physical, emotional, and spiritual-because you know that as an athlete.”

Footnote: This is undoubtedly the most difficult post for me to write. It took a lot of me to talk about my school age experiences. As I formulated this post, I knew that the story had to include those details and not just, where I am today. It is hard to move forward while not admitting that something is holding you back. It is in black and white now. I cannot say that this power is gone. I can say that the power is much diminished.

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