I accomplished my goal…and it was awful.

resilienceI’ve confessed before how much I suck at running. It’s true. I’m really not being modest. I’m slow. It hurts. It’s discouraging. And yet, last month I ran a marathon. Okay, that sounds better than it actually was. It’s true I did complete the 26.2-mile distance, and people have been incredibly kind to pat me on the back and tell me how awesome I am to have finished it. And yet, I’m not happy with my accomplishment at all.

My race day was awful. In the weeks leading up to the race, my stomach didn’t play nicely. I tapered my runs. I took my supplements. I watched my diet and my hydration. I did everything I knew to do in anticipation of my race on December 6th, but I still found myself in my doctor’s office on the afternoon of December 5th watching as he shook his head and said, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

I did.

The first 15 miles of the race went well. I ran right along with my pacer. I cheered my fellow runners on. I thanked volunteers and hugged friends who’d come out to support our cause. I felt great. My energy level was good, and my spirits were high. I doing it. Mile 16 changed everything. At the end of 15, I stopped to go to the bathroom. My pacer ran ahead, but I wasn’t worried thought I could catch up with her. I never did.

Mile 16 was awful. My stomach started cramping, and my legs, feet, and lower back began to hurt. I had to stop for the bathroom again at the next water station. Honestly, if a friend hadn’t been there to encourage me to go on, I probably would have quit. I certainly felt like giving up. Miles 17-21 consisted of a little running, some walking, regular Porta-Potty stopping, and lots of grumbling. I expected to see my family at mile 19, but falling off pace meant missing their cheering faces, too. I trudged on.

I don’t remember much of the last five miles. I know I ran more than I walked, and I know every single step hurt. A lot. Thankfully, I didn’t have to stop at the toilets during the last few miles. There was nothing left in my system. I crossed the finish line in 5:42:48. I wasn’t happy or proud, but I was finished. I’d been looking forward to the race for months. I’d trained my body. I’d raised money for a great cause. I wanted to feel good about it all, but I didn’t. I just felt awful. Yes, I’d finished the marathon; I’d technically accomplished my goal. But, the experience didn’t met my expectations, and I’m a little sad and discouraged as a result.

Where does this leave me as a runner? I’m not sure yet, but I’m finding it tough to lace up my Brooks. What do you do when you’ve accomplished a goal, and it’s left you feeling bleh?

Running Thoughts: Grit

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This morning I ran 5.05 miles in 52:41. It wasn’t my best time for 5 miles, but it was a much-needed improvement over Monday’s awful run. I was frustrated after Monday’s run. I was ready to give up. (I give special thanks to Scott Elias and Phyllis Moore for the encouragement they sent my way via Twitter.)

I could make lots of excuses for why Monday’s run was sub par. In fact, I think I will. It was hot, humid, and later in the day than I typically run. I had injured a toe, and I had taken too many days off. Regardless of all these factors, it was terrible run. I was miserable, and two-thirds of the way through my run I quit. I couldn’t finish. I was ticked. My runner’s ego (Is that a thing?) bruised. I had been training for months and after Monday it felt as though it had all been a waste. I had set a myself a distance goal, then failed to reach it. I wanted to quit, to pitch my Brooks in the garbage.

Why do I bother waking at 4:45 AM, again? What’s the point?

Today was different, though. I forced myself out of bed this morning and hit the streets again. The road was dark, quiet, lonely; my body was tired. I set my running app for a 5 mile distance run then headed into the darkness. It wasn’t pretty. At the 2-mile mark I tired, but I continued making good time. At the 3-mile mark my pace slowed, but I keep going. As I finished the fourth mile, I grit my teeth and told myself “I will finish this.” Stride by stride, I did.

Talk of “embracing failure” is all the rage in my learning spaces these days. I get it. We want students to understand things won’t always be easy. We desire for them to be comfortable taking risks and making mistakes. We hope to build their resilience–their grit. None of this is bad. Perhaps, it’s even good. I know I’ve waved the flag for this cause myself. But let’s be careful not to glamorize failure. Failure hurts. It shakes the core. Failure sucks.

Sure. We must challenge ourselves as teachers, and we should push our students, too. Perhaps, we should occasionally be less helpful and more often set the bar beyond their reach. I”m certain we should discuss handling setbacks and encourage their stick-to-it-iveness. But let’s be careful how we talk of failure. Failure, especially on a grand scale, isn’t pretty. It’s not cool or glamorous. It is crushing. It hurts.

So yes, let’s teach our kids to be resilient. Let them know success requires grit and determination, achievement involves overcoming struggles and mistakes. But let’s not overly romanticize failure. I’ll skip the embrace, as well.

Writing Time Limit: 45 minutes.

Running Thoughts are “process” posts of the thoughts I have while running. Often, they relate to my job as a school teacher. Running thoughts are just that–running, a thinking aloud about ideas I have. They are not fully formulated or even polished an are very much in the developing phase. By all means please consider them, challenge them, or help me clarify them. Just don’t hold me too them. The oxygen is needed in my muscles and likely is lacking from my brain. As always, I’d love to hear from you.

Learning From The Lego Story

One of the favorite toys around my house is Lego bricks. We are pretty big Lego fans. My wife and I have been to the Carlsbad to visit Legoland twice. We even took the kids with us once. 🙂 For our vacation this summer we only made a quick trip to Atlanta, but our first stop after dropping our bags at the hotel was the Lego Discovery Center. And we stayed until it closed.  It’s funny. The boys and I hate going to a mall, but as long as there’s a Lego Store it’s all good. So, you can imagine my excitement when I came across a post on GeekDad about Lego’s 80th birthday. The best part of the post is “The Lego Story” animated short. If the history of Lego intrigues you at all, I highly recommend you take the time to watch the video. It is seventeen minutes long, but it’s well done and worth watching.

As a teacher and dad, I found the following important ideas in the video that I think warrant consideration:

  1. Resilience – The Kristiansen family faced numerous obstacles on the way to building the Lego company, yet they never stopped bouncing back from the setbacks. They were resilient people. Certainly, there were times when they were down, but they never considered themselves out. They didn’t quit. When their original wholesaler went bankrupt, Lego founder Ole Kristiansen didn’t give up; instead, he decided to take it upon himself to sell his toys. When the company workshop burned down, Ole’s responsibility to his family and employees inspired to rebuild the company and fight their way back into the market. We, too, mustn’t let disappointments force us to quit. We must press on and view problems as hurdles to overcome rather than permanent barriers to achieving our goals.
  2. Risk-taking – Innovations occurred because the Kristiansen’s took risks. Ole purchased a plastic moulding machine even though it was expensive and their previous toys were all wood constructions. Godtfred Kristiansen, Ole’s son, took a chance by adding system to the Lego bricks allowing children to build toys for themselves. The system of play became so popular that Lego was able to sell the toys outside Denmark. Additionally, he took a risk to build an airport and eventually decided to go all out and build a whole Legoland, which welcomed 600,000 guests its first year. Growth requires risk-taking. We mustn’t rest on our laurels or become complacent and satisfied with things as they are. We must venture into new areas and take chances if we want to develop and mature.
  3. Embrace the E’s – Kjeld, Ole’s grandson, is now the vice chairman of the board at Lego, and I love the vision he (via his animated self) shares at the end of the video. It’s one we should embrace as parents and educators, as well. He seeks to encourage children to “explore, experience, and express their own world–a world without limits, and we are still convinced that only the best is good enough (excellence) because children deserve the best.” Isn’t that what we want for our children and their learning? If we are “educating for the unknown,” as David Perkins suggests we should, I cannot imagine a better preparation than for students to explore their world, to experience humanity, to express their understanding, and to do it with excellence.

What do you think? What jumped out to you about the Lego story? How do we help our children become resilient risk-takers? What do you think we’d be missing if we educated for the 4 E’s? I’d love to hear your thoughts.