I dreaded gym class.
I hated everything about it.
During my school career, I proved myself to be as far removed from an athlete as humanly possible, despite the fact I studied ballet four days a week.
I couldn’t catch, throw, hit, bounce or anything else you do with a ball.
I couldn’t climb ropes.
I couldn’t do back flips, front flips, hand stands or back bends.
I couldn’t swing on the monkey bars or do cherry drops or hang upside down.
My breast stroke form was anything but proper. As was my back stroke, side stroke and any other stroke learned during the swimming section of gym. Actually, my doggy paddle wasn’t so great either. I excelled in lounging and sunning though.
The one thing I was the most miserable at.
The one thing I couldn’t do AT ALL.
As in…I never, ever successfully ran the expected distance in the expected and alloted time frame, as spelled out by whoever decided running during school was a good idea.
In 9th grade, we had to run 1.25 miles. In 14 minutes. Without stopping. Without walking.
And most importantly, without dying on the track.
I practiced during gym class under close watch by the gym teacher Ms. Powell and her stop watch.
I had my parents drive me up to school so I could practice by myself without the intimidation of my gym teacher Ms. Powell and her stop watch.
I even practiced in my sleep, under the close watch of Ms. Powell and her stop watch.
She’d scream a count down in her deep, manly voice.
“10 minutes”, better hustle.”
“Get a move on, you have 5 minutes left.”
“If you haven’t run AT LEAST 5 laps, you aren’t going to make it!”
Some of the kids finished the 6 laps ages before the rest of us.
Some finished right at the cut off.
Some, like me, didn’t finish on time.
Ms. Powell would give us a look that read “you’re pathetic” and send us off to the lockers to change out of our sweaty, smelly gym clothes.
I flunked the “official” running test.
But, we could make it up during our lunch period.
We could retake it as often as we needed to.
So I practiced more.
The only thing that got me through the running practice was my walkman blaring, making my eardrums pulse to the 80’s beat.
Quite by chance.
I decided, instead of listening to my usual Duran Duran “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” cassette, I’d kick it up a notch. Or two.
When the song was over, I’d rewind and keep going.
I found my groove.
According to my watch, which could be very different from Ms. Powells official gym stop watch…
The beat of Rebel Yell, if played over and over, got me through the mile and one freaking quarter…
in EXACTLY FOURTEEN MINUTES.
Could it be?
Would I actually pass according to Ms. Powell’s stopwatch?
The day of reckoning.
I walked past the lunchroom and headed toward the girls gym locker room where I changed into my super smelly gym clothes (that I probably should have taken home to be washed WAY more often).
I hooked my HUGE not-Sony Walkman up to the tape I made of ONLY Rebel Yell playing over and over and over again.
I signed in.
Ms. Powell walked me (and a couple others who hadn’t passed the running test either) out to the track.
And we were off.
Every single drum beat my right foot went down.
I was gasping for breath…it seems me and running don’t get along very well because I don’t know how to breath during that particular type of exertion…
5 laps left.
Ms. Powell smiled, gave me the thumbs up and let me know that I passed. I ran the 1 1/4 mile in EXACTLY 14 minutes…the maximum time allowed by the state.
Because of Billy Idol, Rebel Yelling me on, I managed to successfully pass that dreaded section of 9th grade gym class…
And move onto the other MOST dreaded part…
Even Billy Idol couldn’t save me from the horrors of having to wear a one piece bathing suit in front of 9th grade boys.