Dear Mrs. Harris,
You might not remember me, it was a long time ago that you were my physical education teacher. A very long time ago. You pushed me to get those ten sit-ups done, you cajoled me to doing those push-ups, and you rebuked me for failing to even attempt the pull-ups. You understood when I changed in the bathroom stalls, as opposed to changing in the locker room. You listened when I cried about being fat and useless. And you had sympathy for when I fell and sprained my ankle in the wrestling room. You encouraged me when we played kickball, and showed me the best way to dodge at dodgeball.
I hated your guts.
I know, that’s not fair. It wasn’t really you so much as it was the subject that you taught. had you been any other teacher I probably would have sung your praises for how well you managed the fragile egos of the charges given to you in those oh-so turbulent times of middle school. But you taught Physical education. The most loathed class of any fat kid. Kickball was a nightmare, always last for the team. Dodgeball was painful, almost literally, I never played baseball and touch football almost always ended badly. But the more horrifying thing in the world, the terrible, awful, torturous event was the Physical Fitness Test.
Now, I don’t really remember if that was the actual name of it. It was one of those things that I think started with President Kennedy and then continued on through the years. Every year, every student, had to pass a physical fitness test. This included everything. Height, Weight, BMI, Jumping jacks, sit ups, push ups, the sit forward and reeeeach for that ruler, pull ups, and the dreaded Mile.
Oh, the Mile. On a dust and dirt covered track around the football field, one lap around was one quarter of a mile. Four laps. You had to get 4 laps done, and the set time was 15 minutes. The Mile. That dreaded torture device. Pullups were easy, I couldn’t do them, I touched the bar and that was it. I could get out 10 situps if I tried, and 10 pushups too. I could never reach very far down the ruler, but nobody expected me to. But the Mile. The one thing that would get gym teachers from every corner of the school to converge on one spot in order to yell. You encouragement sounded like jeering, your shouts to keep going brought only feelings of hate.
I hated the Mile and I hated you.
It wasn’t your fault. you were doing what you had to do. It was part of the national curriculum and that I understand now. But oh, how I hated you.
But, what brings this up now? all these years of repressed anger and hatred towards the dreaded Mile? The one thing that I was never able to beat. Fifteen minutes. I think the closest I ever got was seventeen minutes. After which, I collapsed on the grass of the football field and promptly attempted to stop living. Or at least breathing. So what brings these memories up? what causes them to come to the forefront today?
Well, mrs. Harris are you listening because this is important, I walked a mile today. I actually walked closer to 1.5 miles, but all the same, I walked a mile today. And I did it in under fifteen minutes.
Did you hear that? Fourteen minutes and forty-seven seconds! Me! Me who couldn’t even think about doing a Mile on that flat dusty track in under 17 minutes. Me who was so out of shape that the thought of more jumping jacks made me want to vomit. I actually managed to do a 15 minute mile. Without dying! Without needing an inhaler or a respirator or to have my heart restarted!
So, Mrs Harris, from so long in the past to this point in my life right now, I want to say thank you. Thank you for your understanding. Thank you for your kindness, and your encouragement. It might have taken me almost twenty years, but I have finally made it past that point!
You can mark me off your clipboard now! I am on my way to physically fit!