Pacer Test: The Bane of My Existence

Honestly, it never occurred to me to think of my schoolwork as “work” until it started getting hard during 8th grade. Everything was just things you had to do to pass. Write this essay, turn in this 2 page packet, not an issue.

Until it became an issue.

Specifically, P.E.  Physical Eduation wasn’t that big of a deal in elementary school. In fact, I almost looked forward to it. If we were playing dodge-ball, it would be my chance to be the step out from hiding and be the hero of the game. If we were playing basketball, at least I could depend on that first shot that somehow 92% of the time worked out in my favor. If we were playing with the hula-hoops, or with the jump ropes, that would be the day I was going to outlast everyone. P.E. was fun. It wasn’t stressful. All you had to do was do what the teacher said and try (and most likely fail) to impress the boys who actually had skills.

I don’t understand why the system had to go and make it all complicated. Not only were you forced to do state testing in you classes, you had to do state-testing  in P.E. How did that even work?

“Presidential Fitness Test”, they said. I suddenly found myself looking at the sky and asking why Obama would do this to us. I had thought he was a really nice guy.

Whatever. I was sure this “Presidential Fitness Test” would be a breeze. I heard there was running in the Pacer Test. I was good at running. When I got to middle school, I would join the track team, I thought at the time.

And the fact of the matter was: I blew away the competition. I watched as classmate after classmate slowed down and peeled off from the line, looking absolutely exhausted. Outside, I had a grimace stuck firmly on my face, but inside, I was celebrating. I was doing better than the boys. Soon, I was the only one left running and I was still going strong. I stopped at around 65, deciding it was getting a bit lonely out there by myself.

That was third grade. Cut to sixth grade gym class, where we were all gearing up to take the test once again. and I was feeling kind of smug. We begun and after just the first two laps, I felt signs of fatigue. I was surprised it was starting so early, but I maybe it had always been this way and it was just something I had to power through to achieve greatness once more.

Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be the case. By the tenth lap, I thought I was gonna collapse. My legs burned and my lungs ached in my ribcage. Still, I ran, determined to be the last one standing once more. I put on my grim face and ran and turned around and ran again. By the 20th lap, I was starting to despise the voice on the speakers, keeping track of the laps we’d done. “20. 21.22.” And of course, the dreaded sound of the the lap times getting short and shorter, pushing us to run faster each time. “Ba-doop. Ba-DOOP. Ba-DOOP.

Torture. Every. Single. Time. That sound would plague me for the rest of my life.

At the sound of the 30th lap, I wanted to cry. I didn’t understand why the boys striding next to me didn’t seem to be suffering through it like I was. Less than half the runners had given up, and there I was, barely getting 2 seconds to breathe in between laps and internally dying.

At lap 36, I had to stop. As much as I wanted to continue, as much as I wanted to be the best once again, it just wasn’t possible. I felt like I was on the verge of an actual relapse, and that was before I knew about having an irregular heartbeat.  My legs wobbled and shook like fresh-cooked spaghetti made of jello as I dragged myself to the wall where the quitters sat. I couldn’t even talk. I could practically see little arms coming out of my mouth, trying to grab as much oxygen as physically possible. My head hurt like I was going through a migraine and my heart… that was the worst. I’m not kidding when I said I could see it beating inside my chest. It hurt worse than anything I had ever felt in my life.

I watched, trying to recover from the sidelines, as said boys slowly started to give out. One 6’7 (yes, he was that tall) sixth-grader made it up to 80-something, promptly collapsing on the floor when his legs finally gave out. Frankly, he looked like a tranquilized and downed giraffe, and it made me feel monumentally better.

falling giraffe
Just like this, I swear.

The two gym teachers escorted us in lines to the water fountains just outside. Everyone was holding their shirts up to their noses, and steering around something.

Someone had thrown up. Actually, multiple people had thrown up. I was grateful to be stronger than that. That had to be the worst P.E. experience I’d ever had, consequently killing any love I had for that class.

Cut to ninth grade. Out of literally nowhere, we were up for our pacer test. I can’t tell you how much panic I went through when I was at the line and heard the man’s voice say “You are starting your pacer test. You will begin at the word ‘start'”.

I watched my heart-rate monitor go from 110 to 125 from pure fear and adrenaline. Memories of that fateful day in sixth grade flashed behind my eyes.

“Ready, set, start.”

After one lap, I was already tired. I knew there was no way I was going to make it to twenty, which was the minimum to pass. I bowed out after 11, not looking to have an encore to my sixth grade performance. But I wanted to pass, so the second round, I went up to the line again. I passed 11, 15, 16… twenty couldn’t come any slower. I was muttering “oh my gosh” and “oh my lord” and “oh my goodness” and whatever else I needed to say to give me motivation to finish.

On the 20th lap, I had an ugly grimace on my face, but I might as well have been Usain Bolt on the inside, gloriously finishing a race in style. I didn’t go out in style though, falling over as ungracefully as the 6’7 boy did back then. I didn’t care. I did it. I passed. 

Plus, as a bonus, I did the most curl-ups out of anyone in my class that same day, beating even that particular group of boys who thought they were all that and some shizzle.

Not so much of a bonus? I was barely able to get through 2 push-ups because my abs hurt too much from the curl-ups.

Obama, why would you do this to us?



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