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Aug 2012
When I was thirteen, I had a running coach.
He was short, lean, and muscular.
An Italian man
with a whistle hanging around his neck,
farmer's tan, and below his black widow's peak
sat silver aviators, propped upon his shiny beak.
I ran miles and miles a day, but,
no matter how much I'd run
he never followed. He always trusted me to
stride my roads and lift my knees high
during the kick at the end of the races
against myself.

"If you want to run
you gotta drop that baggage," he'd laugh
between sips from his water bottle
as he towered over little me,
panting and red. We both stood
tall under the blazing sun.
I couldn't comprehend exactly what he meant,
I mean, I told him,
"I have ultra-light, top-of-the-line shoes,
compression shorts and athletic toes,
a hairless chest for maximum speed,
sweat running rivers down my spine,
legs that never exhaust, and,
above all, Coach,
a spirit that can move mountains." His response,
silence and a smirk.
Who was he to teach me about running?

"You're weighing yourself down boy,
you gotta drop that baggage."
It was his motto for me
every time my time would increase,
because, you see, when running,
increase is bad. Except for hills.
I can still hear his voice in my head,
"Uphill, increase exertion."
He never ran with me, he just told me to go.
He showed me the route and I did as expected,
six days a week, sometimes three miles, sometimes ten,
day after day, again and again,
shoulders hunched and me out of breath,
"runners high," they called it.

I hated running, I hated my coach,
I didn't understand why
anyone would want run to anywhere.
Not now. Now, I love it.
It has become my hobby, a specialty
for when one grows up,
your body is built for it, and your mind
has been ready to run since junior high.
It starts as a seedling, when you're barely able to walk,
and by the time your cardiovascular system
has been assaulted by packs of tobacco
and rolled marijuana, it blooms green.
That's when you realize:
Running is easy.

And coaching?
Don't even get me started on how easy that is.
Joseph Valle
Written by
Joseph Valle
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