Callenetics VHS tape and aerobics classes in the huge indoor track of the RB I did religiously.
After graduation I became a missionary for my church and had only one companion Allison, who would get up earlier than the required 6:30am and run with me. (The rest of the time I used a jumprope to get in some form of cardio, because the street-contacting never gave me the opportunity to raise my heartrate- I was in France, not Brazil, after all). From that my love of running slowly started to build. One of my best memories of my mission is of those early morning runs, going down the main avenue in Bourg-La-Reine, circling a chateau and it's gardens, then looping back. I can still see the townsmen (yes! they had 'townsmen'! or maybe they were just the intentionally unemployed?), at 6:30 in the morning, emerging from their cafe/bar (either still drunk from the night before, or just getting started), who would come out of the cafe, confused (French women don't run- they're just born that way), and smelling of stale wet cigarettes. I could always count on this one particular fellow who would see me running as fast as I could ahead of my comp in some random sprint to the finish, yelling after us in the pre-dawn light, "Allez les filles! Lui, elle va gagner! Allez les filles!"
I still sucked at it, still hated it- 93% loathing. But it did something and made me happy for the day.
Years later, when it came time to retire my Walkman and get an iPod, I had to name my running playlist. Keeping in line with my poetic self, I titled it 'Allez les Filles'.
Never mind that it's that portly drunk Frenchman's face I see, every time I see my playlist. Never mind that I remember those runs as awkward and hard and far too short. In the dim light I see him step out of the cafe, espresso in hand, and begin to watch us running down the street. He pretends surprise as always, elbows his buddies and points. He begins to smile and for the next 30 seconds he's my fan. I hear his mutterings and guffaws and then as we get closer he gains confidence. It's coming, I can see it on his face. Then just as I pass, he bellows, "Go girls! Her, she's going to win! Go girls!!!" I try not to smile in acknowledgement or approval but I can't help it. I pass him and hear faintly as he laughs at himself, or us, but I don't care. His yells and jeers somehow motivate me. Echoing in my head today, they motivate me still. I can run faster, he's telling me to. I can give more, I can go. Those early morning cheers are the first ones I hear in my head when I start a run, and years later I wouldn't have it any other way.