During training on Saturday I began to think about the individuals who have donated to the Aids Foundation of Chicago, to help me run the Chicago Marathon, and pondered on what I could give them as a thank you. 😉
I thought of a lot of things: letters, small gifts, a tasteful nude of me, but I eventually decided to share the start of my passion for running. I hope you enjoy the short excerpt from something I’ve been working on!!! Please continue to donate!!
Running in the Nude
THE SUMMER BEFORE sixth grade my cross-country coach said, “Maybe this isn’t the sport for you.” I thought, “Is this not the sport for everyone, free from judgment, and a place to find peace?” Obviously not, as I was not invited to attend any more summer practices which basically eliminated me from being a member when school started in August. My coach, whom I still consider a friend and mentor, would likely remember a different story. Perhaps from her perspective she was attempting to spare an overweight, awkward, homosexual from making an utter fool of himself? Naturally, I resisted.
During that phase of my life I was not very insightful in what others perceptions were, which is why I thought this dismissal was an injustice and un-coachly of her, or at the very least embarrassing. But the truth was she called me fat. Of course, she had not actually said those words or insinuated them in the tiniest, but that is exactly what I heard. Like most children of that age I was prepubescent and insecure. Often I was mistaken for my mother when answering the phone. To which, I would angrily deepen my voice and say “No, this is Garrett.” Although, sometimes I would play along with the caller as correcting was exhausting. In fact, as I am almost thirty years old I still get mistaken for a woman.
In addition to my running woes, I was horrified of the idea of having to start showering after gym practice in the 7th grade. This constant cause of anxiety prompted me to develop an internal clock, which continuously calculated the days until I had to be naked in front of my middle-school cohort. These thoughts, compounded with my Coach calling me fat infuriated me; so I ran…Sort of.
After being uninvited to join the cross-country team in time for my sixth grade year, I figured there was no point to start training during that year. “It made no logical sense, I thought.”
The best decision would be to wait for the following summer, so I would not “lose anything” that I worked hard for. As a result, I started training the summer before my seventh grade year. The Louisiana summer heat was unforgiving that year and my motivation to prove that I was not fat and I “could do it,” was weak. I attempted to run every morning before the humidity ate my soul, which rarely happened.
I lived on a two-hundred and fifty acre farm, so I had vast options for running trails. Usually, I would sprint until I was out of sight to ensure to my parents and bothers that I was really good. As soon as I disappeared in the trees I would stop and walk.
I have never claimed to have Attention Deficit Disorder, but I am certain that I have symptoms of it. Recently, an acquaintance said “it is just part of your personality,” which I liked. This made me acknowledge my behavior, without necessarily accepting it and allowing me to justify my behaviors—I have used this to my advantage with friends, potential dates, and clients for work (I struggle as a social worker). As a result during my “runs” I would follow the creek until I got tired of stepping over stones, or saw an interesting bird. Sometimes I would sit and daydream, other times I would take off my shorts and underwear.
There was something very freeing about being naked in the middle of a field. I never masturbated, but I would fantasize about an older cowboy fondling me. He would ride up on a horse and ask if I was alone. To which he would continue to ask questions about my interests and listen intensely. Everything I would say or suggest would be welcomed with laughter and kindness. His ripped Wrangler jeans fell perfectly over his brown boots. As he sat next to me, while staring into my eyes, he would lean in and kiss me; my first kiss.
My daydreams didn’t last long, as I was terrified of spider bites which prompted me to continue my run, but they were terribly entertaining and distracting. After the scorching walk back to the area where I was in eyesight, I began running once again. Needless to say, I did not become a faster running the summer before 7th grade, nor did I lose any weight. I did have no tan lines, though.
In the following months I was accepted on the cross-country team and also began showering after gym class, which was not so bad. Nervously I discovered that I was above average endowment, which has thankfully followed me into adulthood. I also learned that all boys are a little bit gay.
Males on competitive cross-country running team race for 3.1 miles- girls ran 2.1. Even at a young age, it perturbed me that girls ran less than boys. I knew that girls were just as capable to run what the boys ran, but concluded that the shortened distance was secondary to their menstrual cycles. This thought, of course, is not a natural formulation of assumptions that sits well with me into adulthood. I do not ever recalling a time where I actively considered women to be “less than.” My parents definitely did not raise me to think this way; my mother was a working mother of three, for heaven’s sake! And her mother, my grandmother, is the strongest, hardest working woman I know. I have always seen the oppression and sexism she has faced throughout her years in the workforce, which has continued well into her 70’s. Why then did I simply assume that girls ran less because of their period blood, or boobs?
Truthfully, I felt sorry for them- having to run with extra weight on their chests. I also felt jealousy. On my nudist runs I would average about 1.5 miles per day, which is a lot closer to 2.1 than 3.1 miles. I knew my running average because I took very detailed notes recounting my runs marking the date, time, conditions, and how I felt; omitting the nude cowboy thoughts, and inspection of my testicles. I also was a liar.
I had an unusual preoccupation with death, more specifically, that I would die young. This led me to alter my “life,” in death, thus meticulously creating a better running journal. Something that would make my parents proud and have people think I was dedicated to something other than chasing butterflies naked. All of this, of course, is what was going through my mind before the gun discharged to indicate the starting of my first competitive race.
To give credit where it is due, this is what my thoughtful Coach was trying to protect me from: running in front of people…