One of the great things about Facebook is reconnecting with people that you knew during the pre-internet/mobile phones era. Last week, I received a friend request from my former school sports teacher. I spent this weekend’s long run thinking about my involvement in sports whilst growing up, and the encouragement I had as a kid.

My school experience was less than perfect; I was a complete dork. I always finished my homework on time, I loved science (and art), I was never tardy or played truant, I got good grades and got along with my teachers. (You won’t be surprised to hear that I wasn’t the most popular person in class). Worst of all, I hated sports (which all the cool kids loved and were good at).

I remember having each Wednesday afternoon dedicated to PE. As the bell rang after lunch, we would all be forced to change and march along to our local fitness center. I hated taking my clothes off in front of the other guys, I was a skinny, shy and awkward kid. I was also envious of all the girls in my class for being able to throw the sentence “sorry Sir, I have my period” around to get the afternoon off. I would have given anything to not have to embarrass myself in the sports auditorium.

It is not like I didn’t make an effort. My mom encouraged me to try everything: tennis, football, volleyball, golf, basketball, badminton and various forms of martial arts. The only thing I got close to enjoying was badminton, and that was only because I got to run back and forth across the court and eventually exhaust my opponent (albeit hours later). I even remember pleading with my classmate for not running too fast at a sprint race so that he would win by a smaller margin. He accepted, but only with a small bribe. So, as I accepted my friend request, I began to reflect on what has changed since then.

My first self-inflicted venture into sports came when I trained for a marathon. I wasn’t fast (I finished in over 4 hours), but I enjoyed the distance. I was able to maintain a steady speed for a long period of time. But my real eureka moment came much later, when I realised I was good at long distance-running. This was two-fold: other people’s perception of my ability but, most importantly, the self-realistion that my times were getting better and were even competitive.

This also applies to the other two legs of triathlon. After two years of swimming, my technique has improved substantially (thanks to my coach), and my race times have reduced significantly. It was at this point in time that I began to enjoy training and racing, when I knew I was good at it. I am yet to reach that point with cycling, but with specific strength training this season and focused efforts, I am excited about reaching that aha! moment.

It is a shame that endurance sports don’t really make it into schools (I guess it is logistically difficult). But I am a firm believer that there’s a sport out there for everyone. I am happy that I found mine, and as my new friend commented “I’m very proud of you” on my recent wall post, I’m glad that I persevered.

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