In 1978 I made my cross-country running debut by finishing 3rd - on no training at all - in the annual cross-country race at our primary school athletics carnival. I don't actually remember much about what transpired next, only that I was pressed into what seemed like not very much training at all, before being required to run cross-country at a regional carnival. The course was a difficult loop on a bushland trail, I didn't do spectacularly well, and that - as far as I can remember - was that.
In high school a similar scenario repeated itself. Called upon to run a couple of laps around the school (it was HUGE and set on an enormous block) I surprisingly came 4th and once again a vague desire to run and get fit was born. I probably lasted all of two or three weeks attending "Fitness" at 7am - in my defence, this meant a 5am start for me since I lived over an hour's commute from school - before retreating again into relative inactivity.
It would be quite a long time before running would become a regular part of my life. I do remember very clearly how it happened: stuck in Alice Springs, in the very middle of Outback Australia, I was doing an elective term in my final year of medical school. I had been bothered for a few years about having put on weight during my studies and - slightly bored and without my usual distractions - decided to do something about it. A classmate had been going out to run most mornings so one day I decided to join her, despite being worried about being way too slow to keep up, given that I had done no running for many years.
My worries turned out to be unjustified - although my friend was by no means creepingly slow, I found myself having to run circles around her in order to not leave her behind in the dust. For someone who has always sucked at most team sports or anything requiring hand-eye coordination, this was a major revelation: hey, I'm good at this!
(also, the scenery was sufficiently spectacular as to distract me from the difficulty of some runs, such as up Anzac Hill - great for building fitness but awfully steep and long).
A little under a year later, I ran my first City to Surf (14km from Sydney CBD to Bondi Beach) in 59:52 and an obsession was born.