– This story excerpt is one of our favourites from the archives of  Like the Wind , a beautifully illustrated quarterly magazine for runners, by runners.

I’ve been running for 40-plus years now and have logged more than 150,000 miles, yet when I go to bed at night I can hardly wait to get up in the morning for my run. I’ve been very fortunate in my running, but when I look back on how I got started, it was all because I wanted to get a date with a girl.

As a young boy growing up in Minnesota, my whole world revolved around hunting, fishing, milking cows… anything to do with the outdoors. But everything changed when I started my junior year of high school in the fall of 1973. I remember walking through those doors. Suddenly my hormones had changed: girls started looking a lot more interesting to me than a dead possum lying alongside the road.

There was a girl in my history class who caught my eye that first day of junior year, but I was way too bashful to say anything to her. A friend of a friend kinda knew her, so I was able to get her phone number. I thought: “I’ll just call her on the phone so I don’t have to look her in the eyes when I’m talking to her.” I got home from school that afternoon and my Mom and Dad were in the kitchen, right next to our phone. I thought: “I can’t let my Mom – and especially my Dad – see me talking to a girl on the phone.” So I snuck into our basement where we had one other phone. I started to walk towards it and immediately I could feel my heart rate start to increase. I kept telling myself: “Just pick up the phone, dial her number, and when she answers everything else will come out naturally.” But a bigger part of me was saying: “Ya know what, Dick? It ain’t gonna happen.” Sure enough, I got to the phone and I was petrified. I could not pick it up. So I went to the corner of the basement and got myself together, knowing I could call her. But NO, I couldn’t do it. I thought: “What a loser you are, Dick.”

At school the next day I noticed the guys that were good at sports, with their high school letter jackets on, had girls hanging all over them. I thought: “That’s it! All I have to do is earn a letter jacket and the chicks will come to me.” So I went all out for football. Now, I’m six feet tall and weigh 134 pounds soaking wet, but I was determined to be a football player.

I remember my football coach had us all in a big circle in the middle of the field. He was explaining what we were going to do for practice on that very first day, when he threw the football towards the end zone and hollered: “Beardsley, fumble, get the ball!” I took off running as fast as my skinny little legs would take me and I jumped on that football. Moments later, about 20 players hog-piled on top of me.

When I got out of that pile, my helmet was on crooked, my shoulder pads were sticking out, and my football pants were down to my ankles. I remember thinking: “There’s not a girl alive worth going through this for.” I quit. I walked off the field. My entire football career – from start to finish – lasted 43-and-a-half minutes. I was devastated. There I was, 17 years old; I’d never had a date with a girl, I couldn’t even talk to one on the phone, and now I didn’t last an hour on the football squad. I thought I might be a bachelor the rest of my life.

It was one of the best things that ever happened to me…………..


Click here to read the full story at Like the Wind Magazine and to view the latest edition.  It’s not How to Run, it’s Why We Run.

artwork by David Wardle (@boldandnoble)