Things didn't come so easy for my family, when I was a child. I came from a large family....there were eight of us - daddy, mama and six of us kids. Daddy and mama worked hard to provide for us and there was little left for luxury items or entertainment. But then again, times were much simpler back then. Our entertainment revolved around activities and games that didn't require a lot. We played outdoors all the time. It was either dodge ball, kick ball, riding bikes, catch, hide and seek, jump rope, jacks, hop scotch or marbles. Little did we know, these games taught us valuable lessons that we would take with us into adulthood.
As an adult, you can often reflect back on your childhood and pinpoint the very moment that determined how your future was shaped. I love those moments when something triggers a memory from the past and you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that particular memory is exactly the point in time that shaped who you are and brought you to where you are now. I remember the very day that it happened to me. As you know, I'm training for a half-marathon and I have often wondered how did I get to this place. How did I get my body to perform in a way that I could run such a long distance? Why am I so dedicated to training? Well honey, it can only be one thing. It's an epiphany of sorts and it's called Sheer Determination.
That sheer determination is how I learned to skate, how I learned to play tennis and now, how I have been able to run longer distances.
I remember once, in the early 70's, being invited to go with our church group to a skating rink in Goose Creek. It was a beautiful rink, the kind with the hardwood floors. Anyway, I was a little apprehensive about going because I didn't know how to skate. So I made up my mind that I was going to teach myself, before going on that church outing.
Circa 1970's roller skates
We had a pair of skates like the ones above. The kind you put your shoe into and buckle the strap around your ankle. Some came with a key to adjust, but mine had a wingnut underneath to adjust the length. I strapped those puppies on one morning and took to the carport. And round and round I went, learning how to brake and turn corners, but most importantly just how to stay up. I fell many times. I came away with bruises, scrapes and blisters of epic proportions, but I learned how to skate that day and continued to practice until the day of the skating rink trip. And when I stepped foot on that skating rink floor, I was so proud of myself. I skated with the best of them.
Andrews High School Gym - circa 1939
And then, there was the time in the mid 70's that I learned to play tennis. We lived across the street from the old Andrews High School Gym. The picture above shows what the gym looked like in 1939. A new school and gym was built some time later and this one was turned over to the town recreation department. They would hold town team basketball games there. And to the right of the building, the town built two tennis courts. Across my street, I watched people come and go and thought that I would love to be able to play tennis, too. I didn't know anyone who played, but that didn't stop me. I decided that I could learn how to play tennis by hitting the ball up against a wall.....much like the little kid in the picture below. If you look closely, on the right side of the gym at the very back there were no windows at the ground level. It was a large expanse of wall that was suitable for hitting a tennis ball. To learn the game, I would walk to the town Library on Main St. to research the rules and how to keep score. I would practice everyday for weeks and months. I actually got pretty good and started getting invited to play some doubles and then singles with different folks that would come out to play. Some years later, I went on to join a ladies tennis team and played up and down the Grand Strand. Again, I learned to play tennis by sheer determination.
I learned to play tennis by hitting the tennis ball against a wall...
Now, many years later, that sheer determination is what keeps me going during my training. It was a year ago in June when I first determined to start running and was so excited when I could run a full mile without walking. I began running longer and decided that I wanted to run a 5K, then a 10K. My confidence began to grow until now as I am determined to finish my first half-marathon. Sheer Determination, yes, it's what keeps me going during hot, humid days and the days when I'm sore and my body is tired...on the days when running feels like pulling logs. It will be Sheer Determination on race day that helps me cross that finish line after 13.1 long miles. And the sweet victory that I'll experience as I cross the finish line on October 12th, from a valuable lesson learned during childhood......PRICELESS!
FYI - The pictures above are not my own. I found them on the Internet and am sorry to say, I don't really know how to source them.