Okay…you might want to grab a barf bag because this is going to me bragging about me so much you may want to puke.
You guys all remember the Presidential Physical Fitness Award don’t you? Well, just to remind those of you who might not remember it— back in the early 70s…maybe late 60s…they came out with a physical fitness test for kids and those who passed it received a Presidential Physical Fitness Award Patch. Well, as soon as I heard about this thing, I wanted one. These tests were done during gym class in school…but not all schools did them when the program first started.
Well—I had always been pretty physically fit. I remember as a five year old, doing pushups on my living room floor trying to impress my dad. I remember doing pull-ups on the monkey bars at school trying to impress the other kids. I ran before running was cool and was always one of the fastest kids in my school. My family moved quite a bit when I was a kid and I always had to prove myself and try to impress all the kids wherever we went. And, because we didn’t always live in the nicest neighborhoods and I was smaller than all the other kids…I had to be able to run faster than everybody else to keep from getting beat up.
In 7th grade, we moved to California. I went to a large junior high school in Hawthorne. Instead of participating in the Presidential Physical Fitness Award Program, this school’s gym teachers selected the top 10 most physically fit boys and girls in the school and they competed against each other to see who was number 1. Well—I did not win the top award…but I was one of the top 10. It was quite the honor…but no patch.
We moved to a smaller school when I was in 8th grade—Yukon Intermediate. I remember walking into the courtyard on my first day…about 2 months into the start of the year. All the kids were standing in line doing the pledge of allegiance or something before classes began. When they saw me, everybody stopped and stared at me because I had hair past my shoulders and down my back. When I went into the office they sent me home and told me to come back the next day…with my hair cut. I went home, told my dad, and he called and told them that he had ‘fought in two wars to give me the right to wear my hair any length I wanted it.’ They agreed to let me come back.
Well, the kids all accepted me and—after my homeroom teacher apologized for calling me Michelle—all the teachers liked me, too. Except Coach. Coach was the gym teacher. I honestly never heard him called anything else but Coach. He had to have been an ex-marine drill sergeant…and he hated me and my long hair.
Well, I was used to impressing people with my athletic ability and I just figured Coach would come around. Nope. And the odd thing was…you did not try out for sports in that school. Coach picked you. I was the best running back in the school in flag football. When he didn’t want me on the team I figured it was just because they had already started the season. I was—believe it or not—one of the best basketball players in the school. When he didn’t pick me for the team, I showed up at every game and was the loudest fan in the stands. And, even though I was the 2nd fastest sprinter and the 2nd fastest distance runner in the school, he didn’t invite me to be on the track team. I’m telling you—the guy hated me.
Well, the time came for the Presidential Physical Fitness Award Test. Back then there were a whole lot more skills that we had to be tested in than there are, today. And we, actually, started practicing the skills far in advance of the tests. And I was doing everything with ease…even setting new school records in a few events. So, the testing began and I was well on my way to achieving my award. But, during a softball game—where I wasn’t wearing a glove—I broke my little finger on my right hand was placed in a cast up to my elbow.
I think Coach actually smiled the first time he saw me in my cast the next day. And when I showed up for gym class, he asked me what I thought I was doing. I told him I was there for gym class. And when I got down and did 10 one armed pushups before most of the other kids had finished theirs, he was ticked. Well, I continued the testing and passed all the skills…with one arm…until the last day. Pull-ups. During the practice I had done 22 pull-ups—more than anybody else in the school. But, as hard as I tried, I could not do 1 one-handed pull-up.
I remember sitting in the big assembly area during the awards presentation, hoping and praying that I would still be given the Presidential Physical Fitness Award Patch. Nope. I never got it. Every time one of my kids came home after winning their patch, while I was happy for them—I always thought about Coach not giving me mine.
Well, a few years ago, while surfing the web…I stumbled upon the President’s Challenge. It was an on-line program where you kept track of all your activities and were assigned a certain number of points for the activity that you recorded. So, early 2008, I set out to earn my awards. On May 19, 2008, I had 40,000 points which earned me the Bronze Medal. September 3, 2008, I earned a Silver Medal with 90,000 points and on January 19, 2009, I accumulated 160,000 points to earn the Gold Medal and a Presidential Physical Fitness Award Patch. BUT—I was not done. All of a sudden they had come up with the Platinum Award. You had to get 1,000,000 points!
Today—with my little 6.8 mile run, I went past the 1,000,000 mark and won my Platinum Award!
Are you impressed?
You're awesome, Michelle Mike! And before I started reading, I didn't grab the barf bag, I grabbed some chocolate and sat down to enjoy your story. If your dream job of being a PT doesn't work out you should be a writer. Congrats on platinum!
I hammered down the trail, passing rocks and trees like they were standing still.
I am duly impressed!!!!!!! Coach sounds like a jerk. Good for you for continuing to battle on despite an adult with a childish attitude.
. . . .
And I especially like the fact your dad stood up for you and your right to wear your hair any length you want. That is the essence of a wonderful parent.
Thanks, Mike. You're sending me into my dreams with a
Leslie Living and Running Behind the Redwood Curtain -------------
2014: May - MDW 70-Miles; July - Mt. Hood 50
"The farther you go outside, the farther you go inside." (Unknown) Ultrarunnerpodcast
Trail Runner Nation
Mike - What an excellent story thank you! No barf bag required.
No one can every accuse you of losing your focus!
Congrats on earning your Platinum PPFA! You'd better collect it before Congress does away with it with this dang sequestration...
I didn't know you were in Hawthorne...
And you can quote me as saying I was mis-quoted. Groucho Marx
This is great Mike!
Coaches like that shouldn't be coaches, or even be coaching/mentoring/teaching kids.
YOU are the kind of person that needs to be working with kids! congratulations on your award. Although we all know you didn't need the award to gain our respect and admiration for you.
"He conquers who endures" - Persius "Every workout should have a purpose. Every purpose should link back to achieving a training objective." - Spaniel
Congratulations Mike. Your perseverence through the many years is remarkable. The award is way overdue.
MM#209 / JapanJoyful#803
welcome fellow fitness friend MikeE., Glad I didn't have your coach or I never would have gotten mine either.
Did you like outdoor/sports merit badges too?
Like your fitness patch, it took me 45 years to get around to doing mine.
This year is the 50th anniviersary year of JFK's 50-mile walks. Just sayin', . . .
and not just to you either (mariposai / holly / erika / timmythewhimmy / ribs / et al)..
50 miles, you say....hmmm...and I haven't done Maryland....
Mike - I really, really, very really hope it might work out out.
Check it out early as it's the 50th anniversary and might be crowded.
Damn it Mike. Now I registered and will have yet another site to log my runs.
Thanks a bunch.
...congratulations mikeE//..........I got mine in the 8th grade 1962 or 63
had done so many sit-ups
we were all knda Bent Over for the next practice,,,,,,,,,,,, I have always remembered it,
I thought it was Hilarious.....
..nothing takes the place of persistence.....