Thursday, January 27, 2011

What you do not know because you are not me January 2011

What you do not know because you are not me January 2011
Michael Ring

Last week I got to accept an award for a teammate who was unable to attend the Shindig.
“Top Male Fastest Runner.” It was a short corny moment. But when I got the plaque
home I realized how cool that was. Not the awards part, but the fact that I was in a room,
having a beer with athletes of that caliber. If my favorite sport was tennis or baseball or
figure skating the people who were at the top of the game would not even talk to me, let
alone drink with me.

It got me thinking about how I got into running and I realized I wrote this two and a half
years ago. We have a lot of new members so I figure I would rerun it now…

What you don’t know because you are not me June 2008

“Why did you run?” The question is often asked of me. My answers vary and
depend on the time of day I’m asked, my mood and how much I care for the
questioner. But, today I am not going to attempt to answer that question. This
month’s question is “Why did you start running?”

I think it was the fall of 1977. I started 9th grade at Sheepshead Bay High School.
Little league was not so good. My parents fought for me to play, but the couch
was really doing me a favor by benching me. I was usually picked last for any
pick-up ball game. So, gym class was really not the best part of my day. Stinky
locker-room, dodge ball, climb a rope or wrestle or sit ups on the gym floor, then
back to the stinky locker room. No, not fun at all.

A few weeks into the school year there were no mats in the gym, there were
some desks. All the coaches were there. They said that if you made it on to
any varsity team; 1) You would be exempt from gym, 2) Gym would actually be
moved to the last period, so you could just go home early and 3) You would get a
grade of 95 on your report card. This was good, very good.

There was a problem, teams had tryouts. I had to be able throw or catch a ball
or I had to be willing to pin somebody. This was not good. Then I saw the track
couch. I remember asking him what I had to do to get on the Track Team. Coach
Silverman said all I had to do was show up. (In PSAL Track the fastest runners
score points for the team, the slower runners do not affect the scoring, kinda like
Club Team Points in NYRC events.)

Show up I could do. I also enjoyed the fact that the faster kids actually talked to
me; they became my friends. (Also like the Prospect Park Track Club.)

I was never fast, but I learned that I could just keep going if I maintained a steady
pace. I actually enjoyed the cross country events, mostly in Prospect Park and
some in Van Cortlandt Park. I think the coach actually noticed me in 11th grade.
I remember that he took me aside and gave me an application to a 5 mile race in

Mill Basin. “This is a real race with grown ups,” he said, and “I just think you
might enjoy it.”.

The next day came the funny awkward meeting. Silverman probably talked to a
colleague and found out he had made a mistake. He told me that PSAL (Public
School Athletic League) runners are not allowed to compete in AAU (Amateur
Athletic Union, the predecessor the MAC, Metropolitan Athletic Conference)
events. He realized that he could get in trouble. The he nervously smiled and
said that this rule would only come into play if I score, if I finish in the top 3 in
my age category. I realized he was really trying not to hurt my feelings; he was
being realistic.

And I really liked running with the grown-ups. In my Junior Year in High
School, I joined the New York Road Runners Club. I ran races with sponsors like
Pepsi and Mazola and a race called the Hispanic Half (Is that politically correct?)
I eventually applied for the New York City Marathon. But that is a story for next