Running Like the Wind and Then Some…
I distinctly remember that when I was around 6 towards 7 years old, I would always play with my brother and sister and the other kids of my village. From the moment we finished school, sometimes until the sun went down, we would play. My mother would call to us to come home to eat, and afterwards we would be out again, continuing our games, which mostly consisted of running around.
I always wanted to run faster and go farther than the other kids went. If a friend of mine would reach a certain point, I had to reach that same point and go a bit farther in order to feel satisfied with myself. If I ever couldn’t do that, I would always go home reluctantly, feeling upset about not reaching my goal.
Back then, we were always running everywhere we went, and we ran as if the devil himself was chasing us. I remember the constant joy that I felt every time I ran, as well as an amazing feeling of completion.
When I was in elementary school, I played soccer frequently; soccer was my life. Later, in 1987, Greece won against the U.S.S.R. in the finals of the European basketball Championship. My friends and I started playing basketball, because we all wanted to be like Nicos Galis and Panagiotis Yiannakis, as well as the rest of our victorious Hellenic national basketball team.
While I was growing up, I didn’t had the luxuries that some of the other kids had; back then, my parents were struggling to raise three kids and they did the best they could. I have the utmost respect for them. Both of my parents had to work, so in the mornings, unlike other rich kids, we had to walk to school carrying our books. I remember I always had to carry at least 10 books each day. I was sure that my school bag weighed over 5 kilos (11 pounds), and I had to carry it for more than one kilometer (2 ⁄ 3 of a mile) each way, every day. After six years, with books becoming heavier each year, I acquired a good physique and level of endurance.
In high school, I spent the first two years playing soccer and basketball, and I was also training with the village’s soccer team, so I got plenty of exercise. My father told me that when he was in high school, he used to run, and he was once the third-place runner in a competition. The next morning, I told my gym teacher that I wanted to be part of the track team, and asked him what I needed to do. Unfortunately, the guy was either bored or didn’t have the skills or experience to train me for the races that were held every year among the high schools in my district.
Without any coaching, I just ran as I used to when I was a kid. I would run until my lungs felt as though they would explode, and then I stopped to rest before running like hell again. When my gym teacher had a medical problem, for three months, a substitute gym teacher coached us. He was around 30 years old, and unlike the regular teacher, who was an overweight, heavy smoker, the substitute teacher was tall and athletic. He put me in a vigorous training program, and he was there with me the whole time, everyday, until the day of the high school competition. That had a positive influence on me, and I came in first place on the 1,000-meter race.
I was very proud of my achievement. I think it was the best running that I ever did. Finishing first and seeing your hard work pay off is a feeling that I hope everybody can feel at least once in their lives. It’s uplifting, and you truly are with the God of Olympus for a few seconds; the ecstasy of such a feat is indescribable. If my father had never mentioned that he was a runner in high school, I never would have run nor had the wonderful memories about running that I have today. Being a runner in high school helped me to start running again later in life when I decided to lose weight; thus, I also owe my good health condition today to my father.
The next year, I came in third place on the 1,000-meter race, and I was second place in another of the district track and field events. But now that the substitute teacher had left, I was training alone, and I basically just ran based on the capacity of my lungs and degree of my sheer stubbornness. The three months I was coached did not teach me how to train myself; I had just followed the substitute teacher’s instructions.
I now know that I was good; I would run 3 km (1.86 miles) in 10 minutes, which is faster than a 5-minute mile. If my substitute teacher had continued training me, I may have pursued athletics as a career, but without him, I did not have the guidance I needed. During the last two years of high school, I stopped running so that I could focus on my studies. Sadly, my future did not include any athletic goals at that time.
This is an excerpt from my first book Thirsty for Health, if you liked it you can buy it from Amazon. Kindle and Paperback options are available.
Have a healthy and happy day!