At the beginning, everything was fine. I was crawling at a normal age. But by the time I should have been walking, I wasnít. Mom didnít think anything of it, but as time went on she started to worry. She and Daddy took me to the doctor. The doctor said I had a viral infection that was affecting the nerves in my left leg. The muscles had been weakened. The tests determined the virus I had was the poliovirus. They said to take me to a physical therapist. The therapistís name was Dr. Englhem. He recommended they bring me in three times a week for therapy. My left leg was slightly bowed so I was given a metal brace to wear to try and straighten it. I had to use a pair of crutches that fit around my arms to help me walk until I got used to the weight of the brace and my muscles got stronger. At therapy, Dr. Englhem would massage my leg and bend and straighten it. Sometimes he would have me walk without the crutches. To do this, I held onto a pair of parallel bars. It was a bit painful at first, but the stronger my leg muscles got, the less it hurt. Dr. Englhem said the pain was good sign I still had feeling in my leg. By the time I entered kindergarten, I was able to walk without the crutches. When I was seven and in first grade, I was running up the steps without any apparatus of any kind.
I wanted to do anything and everything that involved using my legs. Gym was my favorite class. When we were told run a certain number of laps, I always ran extra. One time we had a race and I really wanted to beat the girl I was running against. I was running so fast I lost my balance and fell flat on my face and she won.
In second grade, the school had a mini Olympics. Of course I signed up to participate in the mile. First, you had to compete against your classmates. I came in first place in my class. I came in eighth place over all.
I was not really exposed to track until I got to junior high. I would always look forward to the time we would spend doing the track events. First, we would just run short races, like the hundred or two hundred meters. Later on, we would move up to the 400-meter dash and the 400-meter relay. I liked most of the track events, but my favorite was the hurdles. In junior high they had Styrofoam hurdles for us to jump over. Two people would go at a time. The girl I was going with was a good two or three inches taller than me and had longer legs. She finished first, but had knocked over two hurdles. Even though I didnít beat her, I did clear all three hurdles.
My favorite field event was the high jump. I remember playing a game with my sisters called High Water. That is where you would jump over a jump rope and each time you make it over, the other two people would raise it higher. I got to be pretty good at that game. The first time, I tried to do the long jump; I ended up with a mouthful of sand.
At the end of track and field, we would run the mile. We ran it every year no matter what. Since we didnít have a track, we would run two laps around the school grounds. I could usually run it in under seven minutes. I actually ran it twice one year. One of my friends was absent the day of the mile. So I said I would run it with her since she didnít want to run it alone.
We also had to do a thing they called The Pacer. That is when you ran back and forth and the longer you stayed out there, the faster you had to go to make it to other end before time ran out. Most people hated this, but The Pacer was what actually helped me learn to not to run really hard at the beginning.
I was not on a real track team until I was in high school. The high school had an actual track. It was one fourth of a mile long. Track season started in the spring. I was a sprinter. I would also compete in the relays and of course the hurdles. I was better as shorter distances since I didnít have to pace myself. I could start running real fast right away. I also competed in the high jump and the long and triple jump.
In the gym, they had two boards of records that had been set in different events. There was a boyís board and a girlís board. Next to the event was the personís name and what record they had set. Ever since freshman year, I have wanted to break one of these records. Finally, my senior year I broke the 100-meter dash record. The record had been 7.2 seconds and I ran in 6.9.
I had never planned on playing other sports. Track and field was good enough for me. The track we used was around the football field. So the track and football team usually practiced at the same time. My brother, Nathan, was on the football team so I would usually wait around after track practice and do my homework until he was done. Then we would ride home together.†
One year, the football team was not doing very well. Since I was always there waiting for Nathan, the coach knew I was on the track team. Mr. Hensley, the football coach, asked if I would be interested in helping the football team. The main receiver had graduated last year and it had really hurt the team. This yearís receiver just wasnít up to par. They needed someone who could run like the wind. I had been voted most valuable runner that year. Mr. Hensley said if I agreed, he would get me all the necessary equipment free of charge. He also said he would talk to the school board and make it so a girl could play on the school football team and had me added to the roster. Iím not sure how Nathan felt about his little sister playing on the same team.
ďRenna, just run your little heart out. Your first duty is to the team,Ē he said.
Mom thought for sure I was going to get hurt out there and wind up as nothing, but a little greasy spot. Daddy said a little rough housing never hurt anyone. I was given a football jersey and my number was 36. Nathan and I both had to add our first initials to our jerseys since now there were two Iniqueís on the team.
At the first game, I ran for the fear of being tackled, instead of wanting to make a touchdown. I would look back and see these 200-pound monsters running at me. I felt for sure they would kill me. If they could have caught me. They did catch me sometimes, but that was only because everyone else was more concerned with protecting the quarterback instead of the receiver. Sometimes when we would come home after a game, Mom would say, ďDid you see that hoodlum pick my baby up and throw her on the ground?Ē when I had been tackled.
I only played football for a year. During one game, I was clobbered by almost five guys. After the referee through the flag and called them off, I didnít get up right away. Since I didnít have any blockers, they had hit me at full force. When I was taken to the emergency room, I found out I had a broken collarbone and that was a hard injury to heal. Mom made it clear I wasnít going to play football anymore. I liked running track better anyway.
I wanted to run in a marathon. Training for a marathon took five or six months. I ran four days a week with a gradual increase in distance every two weeks. I did stretching every day to help strengthen my muscles and ligaments as well as protect them. I started off nice and easy. Then I would pick up the pace the closer I got to the finish line. I didnít win every marathon I competed in, but I did complete every one. One time, I even won a trophy for being the only person to finish the entire race.