Loneliness of the Wrong Distance Runner

Dad was that rarest of men: He didn’t watch ballgames or follow sports teams. He just wasn’t into it.WrongDistanceRunner

In fact I was always somewhat amused to be around when he was asked what, for example, he thought of the “Vikes’ chances for the Super Bowl.”

Dad didn’t have a prediction, but did his best to politely respond. The only competitive bone in his body was against himself and what he could achieve.

Likely taking a lead from Pop, I decided it was past due that I competed with myself—which in high school meant joining track.

Not entirely sure how that began, given my normally bookish habits. I’ve always been somewhat kinetically challenged, a tendency toward clumsiness.

So, sprinting didn’t feel right and long-distance running was too rigorous. Middle distance had the Goldilocks factor—just right.

The above photo, from the ’78 yearbook, shows junior Pat McGinnis running in a relay. Wasn’t able to find a photo of me in a tracksuit from that spring, since I’m fairly certain no member of the Family Project ever attended my track meets.

On Monday, May 1, 1978, junior class buddy Terry Hollingsworth and I, suited-up as middle-distance runners, “waited for track practice—[the] Girls had a meet—so we worked out until 4:00 … [then] ran around, philosophized.”

Track Stars, hardly.

More like “Philosophers in Sweats.”

But the May 11 entry makes an unusual confession about my high school athletic experience: “It was a hardworking day in school—and I took the bus home at the end ([varsity] track at Shakopee for a meet). I feel like an outsider about Track anyway.

That’s a telling line—underscoring the exclusivity of varsity players and their selection by Coach Lage, who was also the Art teacher, and who decided who would run and who would get benched.

Again the diary reveals deeds subverting intentions: if I wasn’t practicing to win meets—or at least competing against myself—I was perfectly willing to go out drinking with the boys any night of the week.

Harvey, Mario, Jim and I sipping screwdrivers wasn’t exactly in coach’s playbook. New to the gang was Mario Millitello—a stocky kid with a constantly bemused sneer—who didn’t fear authority and was always coming up with wild ideas.

For example, on May 5th, the diary states that Mario wanted to open a disco in town named “2112 Disco,” after the Rush concept album. Inspired by our trips to Disco-Trek, he argued that it would be a sure-fire moneymaker: kids wouldn’t have to leave town to hit a dance place, and a fortune could be made on concessions alone. We had to find out how one went about doing it and “put together a plan.”

Well, when you’re 18, “putting together a plan” quickly devolves into “getting pretty blitzed” on vodka and orange juice over at Harvey’s. Or cruising the Hopkins main drag. Or riding shotgun to the mall to play foosball or Pong at Piccadilly Circus.

You see, with graduation looming, we were feeling bulletproof. We’d be getting “that high school thing done” and moving up to the adult world, so hey what’s the big deal about goofing off, smoking pot, and drinking?

My behavior was overriding any counterbalancing effect of track and field; I began skipping practice, eventually dropping out.

The Party Chasers took off in Harvey’s Mustang, or Steve’s new Camaro, hitting the regular spots, mixing cocktails while our parents were away, and generally plotting trouble. It used to give me butterflies in my stomach, remembering Dad’s fury after I was busted for smoking pot my sophomore year.

So, on Monday, May 22, the diary reports, “Mario talked back to [Mrs.] Ferguson in German today and she kicked him out of the class. ‘Auf weidersehen, klasse,’ he [said]” as he paused by the classroom door and gave us a tiny wave of his hand.

Of course, with that bemused smirk of his.

~ by completelyinthedark on March 2, 2013.

3 Responses to “Loneliness of the Wrong Distance Runner”

  1. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was a high shool runner. i did it for the wrong reasons. I felt the need to be a jock at something. I learned to appreciate the “zone” that happened.
    (I never became a jock).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Getting together with old high school friends tonight and we’ll try to not talk about old track & field “injuries.” :-/ All-new post next Friday.


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