When I heard that Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth had failed his conditioning test, my first thought was not that he's a bum for showing up to training camp out of shape, and it was not that Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is foolish to treat a 350-pound defensive tackle like a freshman on the high school track team.
My first thought, egocentric man that I am, was, Could I do that?
Obviously, if the conditioning test were anything having to do with physical strength, I'd have zero chance of doing something that Haynesworth could not. But the test is actually a 300-yard shuttle run that must be completed in 70 seconds, followed by a 3.5-minute rest, followed by another 300-yard shuttle run, this one needing to be completed in 73 seconds. I was pretty sure I could do that.
And so I tried. When it first occurred to me to try, I was under the mistaken impression that it was an original idea, but before I had a chance to head out to the local football field, I found out that half the Washington, D.C. media has already tried it, some successfully, others not. One of those who passed the Redskins conditioning test was James Fallows, the 61-year-old writer for The Atlantic, which made me fearful that I'd look even more pathetic than usual if I failed.
On the first 300-yard run I kept an eye on my stopwatch as I ran, trying to pace myself so that I did every 50 yards in 11 seconds. Keeping that pace, I reached the 250-yard mark with my watch showing 55 seconds, and for the final 50 yards I slowed down a little bit to conserve energy for the second run, finishing the first in 68 seconds, two seconds faster than Haynesworth managed when he first attempted the test.
After the break, I didn't try to pace myself on the second 300-yard run: I just ran as fast as I could for the whole thing. By the midway point I was breathing heavily and feeling the lactic acid building up in my legs, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about calling this whole silly experiment off, but I pushed through and saw my stopwatch reading 1:09 at the end of my second 300. Unlike Haynesworth (who took a 10-minute break after finishing his first 300 and wasn't even allowed to try to run the second), I had completed it.
Having previously attempted to measure up to the standards of the Presidential Physical Fitness Challenge, I'd have to say that what the Redskins are asking Haynesworth to do is easier than what the President asks fifth graders to do. Then again, the President doesn't ask fifth graders to attack a double team from a couple of NFL offensive linemen.