Confessions of a Rotten Egg
Last one in is a rotten egg! was the favorite game of my childhood friend, Alexa Johnson. It was my least favorite game.
Alexa, like all the Johnson kids, ran for the sake of running. They were like dogs, these five children. If you opened a door or a gate, they would happily trample over one another while sprinting ahead at break-neck speed to pass through it – no particular destination in mind.
Last one in is a rotten egg!, as I’m sure you know, is the phrase one shouts in order to initiate an immediate foot race. On any given day, while walking home from the neighborhood pool, getting out of the car after ball practice, or when heading in from the yard for a lunch of peanut butter-and-honey sandwiches, someone shouted that dreaded phrase.
“Last one in is a rotten egg!” Then everyone would take off, me pulling up the rear. Sulking.
“First one in has to eat it!,” I’d shout from behind. It was the only card I had to play. If I was a rotten egg, then those speedy Johnson children could just eat me.
I was a chubby kid, and during my Johnson-house years I had neither the language nor the confidence to speak my truth to these friends; that I would rather be a rotten egg than a sweaty girl with an elevated heart rate. That I’d just as soon take a whoopin’ as get winded. That I hated to run.
Alexa continued to push running on me throughout childhood and into our teens. Once she joined the cross country team she became more persuasive, her coaching skills more developed.
“We can just walk if you want,” she’d promise. “I’m not going to run off without you, I just want to get out of the house. Go put your shoes on.”
As promised, Alexa never ran off without me. Her goal was not to make me the rotten egg; never had been. Her goal was to get me running. Who knows why. She was just evangelical about fitness. I don’t know any other way to explain her.
In the beginning we walked. As time went on, the walks got faster. At some point she would have me jog a short distance.
“Lets just run until we get to that bridge,” she’d say, “and then we can walk again. Okay?” With her encouragement, I got to the point that I didn’t need to walk at all. I never learned to run quickly, but I did, to my great surprise, learn to run greater distances than I had ever imagined back when I was in elementary school and couldn’t finish a mile.
Running is on my mind today because our town’s big foot race, The Unity Run, was last night. Both my children participated. They are not particularly athletic kids, but they have come to view little community fundraising races like The Unity Run to be a good time and worth the effort.
Carrie, my ten year old, chose to do the 5K, because it is “the real race that everyone does.” William, my five year old (and the rotten egg of my heart), opted for the 1K Fun Run.
“Whatever is shorter,” he said. “I just want to get a t-shirt, I don’t want to get hot.”
I have taken the Alexa approach on running with these kids, and so far they have responded fairly well to it. William placed 3rd in the 5-year-old bracket of the Fun Run (and there may not have been more than 3 five-year-old participants, but still; bronze medallion!) Carrie took 2nd place in the ten-and-under girls and got both a silver medallion and a much-needed confidence booster.
I don’t expect either of these kids to set any track records. My hope for them is that they will learn from running what I learned from my friend Alexa, and what I want to tell chubby kids and rotten eggs everywhere:
1) You have to start somewhere.
2) Running is the perfect fitness activity if you are unathletic, because it is nothing more than putting one foot in front of the other.
3) You have more control over your body and your weight than you think.
4) The reason you hate running is because you are going too fast. Slow down and focus on distance.
5) You stop and walk when you reach your goal (be it a bridge ahead or a finish line), not when you’re tired.
6) 5Ks have great t-shirts and goodie bags.
7) Everyone is responsible for taking care of the body God has given him/her. Being slow is not an excuse, and neither is being clumsy.
8) The hardest part of running is getting off the couch and putting on your shoes.
9) You might never be the first one in, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the rotten egg.