by guest blogger Andeep Singh, documentarian and television and Web video producer
Last year, on the eve of yet another birthday (cue incessant crying and Porsche browsing), I decided I needed a little physical activity to get over my angst. For some then unknown reason, a little voice told me to try running. So I did.
To be clear, I was NOT a runner.
Runners are dedicated to their craft. Runners are athletes. Runners are focused. Runners know how to grab a Dixie cup of water from a race volunteer without spilling it all over their faces. (Seriously, someday I will get that right).
Me? I told myself that I was just a person that puts on shoes and goes outside. But after a full year of running and a few races, it occurred to me that Mr. Leung might think otherwise.
Mr. Leung was my junior high school gym teacher, and he excelled at every sport: running, biking, swimming, basketball, even golf. Mr. Leung also had perfectly manscaped legs, which made all the rounds of the junior high school gossip mill.
Me, I was an asthmatic theater kid who spent more time trying to blend into the gym floor (aka- method acting) than actually participating in sports. I always hoped that no one called on me to kick a ball or run to whatever base was supposed to matter. I still cringe when remembering the gymnastics unit of grade 9. To this day, I can’t watch Olympic gymnastics without shuddering.
So you can imagine my utter surprise when Mr. Leung asked me to join the cross-country team.
At the beginning of every class they would force us to run a mile around the school. They called it a “warm-up run,” but it was anything but. We lived in Vancouver pre-global warming and 9 times out of 10, it was cold and raining outside. The rain, the running and the impending frizzy hair were incredibly annoying. So, in order to get myself back inside, I would run the mile as fast as I could. Turns out that was actually a good thing. I was surprisingly good at running away from misery.
When Mr. Leung saw this and suggested that I join the team, I literally laughed in his face. I certainly didn’t laugh at Mr. Leung to be rude. It was more like complete incomprehension. WHO ME? Had Mr. Leung been hit in the head with a volleyball?
I shyly told him running wasn’t my thing, but he didn’t believe me. Occasionally, Mr. Leung would ask me again to join the team, and I would pretend like he was some funny comedian with a brain injury.
It seemed inconceivable to me that I could excel in any physical sport, let alone one that required long-term endurance. I continued to tell myself that same narrative until long after I had left high school. I was simply not a runner.
Habits die hard and the lies we tell ourselves even more so. Not being a runner was a construct, something I had built in my head. Maybe it didn’t fit the person I was trying to be or thought I was.
Even after I started hitting the pavement, calling myself a runner seemed fraudulent. I’m too cheap to buy the gear, I thought, therefore I didn’t look the part. My desire to sit on the couch and drink wine is stronger than my desire to run, so it’s obvious I don’t feel the part. I’m super slow, which must mean I’m not good at the part.
But now I realize that the voice I heard last year that propelled me to start running was actually some incarnation of Mr. Leung’s invitation. It was a second opportunity to try something new and not worry about whether I’d fit the part. Instead, this time, the part would fit me.
So on this, my 1st Run-iversary, I’m giving myself permission to say, yes, I am indeed a runner. And although its taken me 20 years to realize it, Mr. Leung knew it all along.
Andeep Singh works at the Rodale Video Network and has produced nonfiction television, film, and digital video content for some of the biggest networks in the country, including ABC, NBC, PBS, CBC, and A&E. She recently completed producing her first feature documentary film, titled Living the Fantasy, which follows the lives of six high-stakes fantasy football players. Originally from the Great White North, Andeep has a serious case of wanderlust, is afflicted with perpetual food envy, and is mildly obsessed with the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.