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"Wogging" and Other Things You Learn in Track
I line up at the one-hundred meter line one Wednesday, my heart pounding. In the lanes beside me are five other girls. The starter announces, “On your mark . . . get set . . .” and fires a pistol. I race breathlessly, always checking to see how I compare to the rest of the group. I have my eyes on the finish line, as we finish rounding the curve. Audience members are watching and cheering. The other girls crossed the line first, and I got fifth place. I get my score from a middle-aged man with a clipboard, who’s probably either a parent or an assistant coach, and receive a testosterone-filled, “Nice run”. Even though it was nowhere near nice, as I had done badly, I accept it and trot over to the recorder. There, I wait, and then give her my score. After two more races, I am done. I walk across the grassy, buggy field and go home with my mom to finish my homework (yes, I know, I lead an exciting life).
As easy as running seems and can be, it has its challenges. I have done track for two years, starting in seventh grade. It was hard to get started, as I hadn’t been running for nearly as long as my peers, but eventually, I got the hang of it. We usually ran about 1.5 miles, twice a week. My first year, it was a small group, and so I really got to become better friends with some of my classmates. One time, early in the season, we did hurdles. I simply took a look at them, and decided that I wasn’t going to do them. They looked tall, especially to my 5’ frame, and intimidating; to top it off, it was raining. Foreshadowing, perhaps? I think so. I got in line last, fervently hoping that somehow, I wouldn’t have to run them. Naturally, it didn’t work that way. I watched all of the good hurdlers, who were in front, leap over the hurdles, as everyone gave them approving, good-job gazes. My friend Caroline was right in front of me. I watched her go, and then I went, too. We went through the hurdles a few times. I had pretty much gotten it, as I turned and watched as Caroline fell, rolling her ankle and scraping her leg. I went over to make sure that she was okay, which she was, and that incident gave me a mental block against hurdles. To this day, I can’t jump over them (not that I’d want to, but still . . .).
For me, the hard part about track is completely the physical aspect. I have never been a “runner”, or at least, not someone who runs well. My dad said I did, but he’s related to me. Whenever I run, my diaphragm always gives me trouble. Apparently, I don’t expand my diaphragm well enough, so it gives me innumerable side-aches. If you need advice for which stretches to do when you’re not expanding your diaphragm, well, I’ve got you covered. I have a hard time running anything more than a half-mile, let alone cross-country. Therefore, “wogging” was developed. My coach, who is a mom at my school, has bright red hair and retouched-resort-pool-colored eyes. She is also one of my mom’s good friends, which isn’t always helpful.
I was running, and had a side ache, so I asked her, “What should I do?”
She replied, “Wog.”
“What?” I clearly had no idea what she was talking about. What the heck was wogging?
“Wogging. Half walk, half jog.” Well, then. Wogging it is—I guess.
For the remainder of my running through school, I tried, but I was never anywhere close to the best. I ran in track meets, I lost relatively well, et cetera. I had fun, as I was able to hang out with my friends. I enjoyed talking and laughing with them, telling jokes and stories to pass the time. That was the fun part. Some of my friends were actually good at running (heh, heh). I wasn’t, and although I knew that, I still couldn’t help comparing myself to others.
The last meet of eighth grade, I rode to with my mom. I was totally stressed out with math and my math teacher, who decided that we should try to do Trigonometry for a day. It took me three hours to do ten problems, and I still failed it. I was totally stressed and annoyed, to the point where whenever anyone mentioned the word ‘math’, I would burst into tears (no joke). My face was probably still tear-stained and blotchy, but whatever. It was the last meet, so I went. I ran the required two-lap warm-up, and then I looked around for my friends. Not many of them were there. I got anxious, with butterflies in my stomach, as I always did before meets and practices. It was hot and humid, with the sky looking dark. It seemed that rain was on the way. I lined up with the other girls my age for the Mini-Medley. I was the second person, so I waited anxiously, holding my hand out for the metallic baton.
I got the baton just as my nerves seemed to be multiplying, and ran, better than I had in the past. I made up for the disadvantage we had had previously, and handed off the baton, and walked back, feeling satisfied. We got second place, better than we’d ever done before. I did the next two races that I was scheduled to run in as well, a one-hundred and a two-hundred. I went into my lane and waited in silence, and at last, my penultimate race began. I hated waiting, at least to start races in meets. I ran faster than I’d ever ran before, though I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was because I didn’t feel any pressure. Perhaps it was because it was the last meet, or maybe because I had taken some Advil beforehand to help with my headache.
Ultimately, it was time for my last race of junior high. This race was the two hundred, a race I detested. It was just long enough to hurt; you wanted to pace yourself, but you shouldn’t, in case you got too far behind. I was always unsure of whether to pace myself or not, and I always came in completely last place for this race. The coach told me two hundreds were my race, but I was pretty convinced that she said that to everyone who didn’t have a specific race which they were good at. I surveyed my friends from Track, and it seemed to be true. I stood at the starting line, as my competitors sized each other up, saying things like, “How fast are you?” or “You look fast. I bet you’re fast.” I always hated this, because I can’t judge how fast I am, and they always told me I was fast before I started a race. Plus, I don’t exactly love idle chit-chat with people I don’t know. The race started, and I ran faster and faster, glancing around at my peers. My feet beat on the track as I sought to beat the girl who was a bit ahead of me, and at last, I finished. After all, I couldn’t wait to get back to my loathed Trigonometry homework. I found out that I came in second, and even though I hadn’t won, I felt like I had. After my mom talked a bit with the other parents, we went home. I have learned that Track, despite its hurdles, is a very fun, accessible competitive sport.