What are the characteristics of your ideal runner, Muscles, stamina, a good physique, long legs maybe? During my high school years, I had all the above and more, so everyone thought I should be a natural runner, but little did they know of my dismal performance in elementary school. The majority of schools in Nigeria held an annual sporting event that was very competitive and taken seriously by parents, teachers, and students. Each student was assigned to a team or house that was represented by a color and given a name synonymous with that color. During a semester, a couple of weeks are used to train and build up to the big event known as the Inter-House Sports.
In elementary school, the names of each team/house came from the past heads of school and I was assigned to Karunwi (my school’s first headmistress), White House. We were known to occupy the last position on the scoreboards in nearly every race and no one bothered to change that reputation. No efforts were put into relay team selections as everyone expected a poor performance from the house’s members. With every race I was part of, I came in last place and it was with this mentality that I transitioned into high school.
In high school, the names of the sport houses were derived from the names of birds. Thus, I was a member of Kingfisher, the Blue house. The Kingfishers had been the undefeated champions for 5 years when I joined them and they were very intent on defending their position. The team leaders wanted me to try out for the long distance races and I had no problems with that. Needless to say, I completed the 1500 and 3000 meters races, but without a medal. In my second year, the house captain put me on the spot during one of the heat and final events, as I was told to run the 4 x 400 relay. This was my first major race and the pressure was on. Kingfisher was now in the lead for 6 years and each gold medal mattered. At the sound of the whistle, I took off as the first leg on the undulated race track. Seconds into the race I stumbled into a hole, my first major fall in front of a crowd.
I proved to be a total non-runner as I got up to clean the mud off my soiled jersey rather than finishing the lap and passing the baton forward to the next leg. My teammates were furious and they let me know by booing me as I left the track in shame, still making and effort to clean myself up. As I think back to that eventful race, I cannot believe how unreasonably I acted. Now, I am a true runner and I recognize the value of finishing a race regardless of what happens. I may not have the speed of Usain Bolt, but I ran in three relay races where we secured three additional gold medals for Kingfisher during my senior year in high school. It was our 10th year undefeated!
Senior year: I am in the Blue jersey, in start position with my head down.