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Ross Dember and Alex Schroeder | Five-feet nothing

Going the distance

Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013

Updated: Thursday, December 5, 2013 09:12

Well folks, this will just about do it. It’s Alex here for the last installment of the semester from the Five-feet nothing duo. We’ve recounted many of our favorite childhood sports memories, from embarrassing mistakes to feel-good game winners, and we hope you’ve enjoyed reading along.

The beauty of playing sports as a kid is that you’ll always have memories and good times to share, if nothing else. My bureau at home has maybe five or six awards on it, but in most cases those aren’t the types of things I’d want to write about in this column.

Instead let’s discuss something everyone has had to go through at one point in elementary or middle school physical education: the mile run. I know Ross touched on this before, but my experience with the mile was a bit different.

First off, I would say, humbly, of course, I was one of the better runners in my grade. I was built for it with my skinny frame. I don’t think I ever finished first in all the years of running the mile for the state physical education tests, but I was up there.

Fourth grade was a particularly special year for the mile run. I think I ended up finishing at right around the 7:30 mark, something to be proud of though it wasn’t the top time. I remember being satisfied, but probably not overjoyed. The gym teachers, however, gave me my chance for redemption, while at the same time encouraging all of us schoolchildren to stay fit.

During recess for the couple of weeks surrounding the actual mile test during class, the teachers would be waiting outside by the field where the laps were run. The idea was that you could run a mile during part of recess along with the other kids. The reward, on the other hand, was what really interested us — little colored plastic feet, trinkets that you could string on a bracelet or necklace.

I remember being obsessed with these little things. I went home and found a chain necklace with something else on it, ripped that off and brought the chain to school to start collecting the multi-colored feet. It was semi-competitive — I definitely wanted to match up well with my friends. But as long as you were running every day, there was no way one person could “beat” another.

Looking back, it was an ingenious way to get kids to run and stay in shape. Offer them little plastic trinkets in return for a serious cardio exercise and before you know it the whole school is outside running laps. That’s definitely not what I got out of it at the time, but I look back and realize how simple it was for helping us to develop healthy habits.

First off, it was pure fun. Crossing the line on your last lap and collecting a prize of sorts — that’s just what kids like to do. Furthermore, anyone can do that any day of the week — just go for a mile run by taking, at the most, maybe 10 to 15 minutes out of your day.

Not to be didactic about it all, but that’s an opportunity that sports provide us: physical activity in a low stakes environment. Everyone knows this, and I surely am not one to talk about always being diligent about exercising. But it helps to be reminded how good and accomplished one can feel after just a little exercise everyday. Especially among the stress and work of college. It doesn’t take a little plastic foot or any type of prize to know how much you’re helping your wellbeing.

Ross Dember and Alex Schroeder are both sophomores who have yet to declare majors. Ross can be reached at, and Alex can be reached at 

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