I’m an unofficial member of my school’s long-distance running club. I only show up for practice once a week. Anything more and I would go out of my mind with boredom. All they do is run circles around and around and around a dirt track worn into the ground.
I asked the running coach why the kids don’t run on the road (“Too dangerous!”) or on the trails (“Too dangerous!”) or on the path by the river (“Too dangerous!”).
The logic behind his workouts is equally baffling. The kids will do a set (2 x 1600 metres, for example) followed by a 20-minute break. Then they will do another set followed by a 45-minute break. And so, during the course of a three-hour workout, they spend less than an hour actually running.
During a ridiculously long break between sets last night, I was sitting with a group of Grade 9 boys. Not only are these kids the stars of the running club but they’re also my favourite students in the whole school. They’re just so happy.
Anyway, I was asking them what their nicknames were and they said they didn’t have any. I told them they needed English nicknames.
They loved the idea and starting making up English nicknames for each other. They did all the work and I just sat back and laughed at their new names: Lettuce Mountain, Monkey Pineapple, Invisible Volunteer, Fruit Punch, Mayonnaise, Amazon Solider and, my personal favourite, Chest Hair Police.
“And me?” I asked. “What’s my nickname?”
They consulted with each other in Japanese until Lettuce Mountain blurted out, “Beautiful Lady!” This was greeted with a loud “No! No! No!” from Invisible Volunteer. They huddled again and then Chest Hair Police yelled out, “Beautiful Lady Princess!” (It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but it’s a huge improvement over my last nickname.)
I may not be getting a good workout with the running club but, damn, I’m having a lot of fun with these kids!