I started a running career at John Rogers High School in Spokane, pictured below. I was a baseball player before that, but in my freshman season, I tore up league pitching with a batting average of just over .200. I had a goal of getting a college athletic scholarship, and it wasn’t looking like baseball would do it for me.
Photo by Colin Mulvany, Spokesman-Review
The few times I was in a distance race in P.E. or racing other kids informally, I did pretty well. So I decided to give distance running a shot by turning out for track my sophomore year.
After two or three weeks of track practices, coach entered me in the mile in our first match, a practice meet against East Valley High School. At the starting line were two experienced EV runners, our team’s top runner – a senior, and myself. A newbie in a field of four left me scared and nervous enough that if anyone tried talking to me, my quivering lips would’ve reduced whatever words I could utter to gibberish.
At the last moment I got a gift of company. A fellow sophomore teammate got put into the race. Normally a quarter-miler, I knew he was no threat to win. I’d have someone to run with.
The race started fast and I stayed with the pack. However, the quarter-miler dropped out before finishing the first lap. I instantly felt dread.
I finished last, however I stayed close most of the race. My senior teammate eventually pulled away, finishing in first, twelve seconds ahead of me. I ran a 5:01, and my times got faster with each race.
Because of our team’s schedule, I only ran three days a week, and my weekly mileage totals were very low. But our interval training was tough, and to this day, I have unpleasant memories of workouts that were especially painful.