Why I Run

Why I runA few years ago, my friend Todd told me that he and another friend had started training for their first half marathon. They had just finished a Couch to 5K program and were looking for a new challenge. As I listened to my friend, I realized I was jealous. My friend was getting in shape and I wasn’t. He was taking care of himself and I wasn’t. In fact, I was headed in the opposite direction, and I needed to do something about it. School was almost out for summer so I bought some Nike running shoes at the nearest outlet store, downloaded a #C25K app for my iPhone, and hit my neighborhood streets. By the time summer ended, I was ready for a 5K race and feeling better about my physical health.

I started running for health reasons. I needed to lower my cholesterol; I wanted to lose some weight. I hoped it might help me live long enough to escort my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. My motives were primarily selfish, but they got me out the front door to the street each morning. They helped me accomplish a few goals and brought others within reach.

So I was running right along somewhat proud of my accomplishments when I realized something: I’m a terrible runner. I’m not being humble. I’m really not. I wish I were just being hard on myself, but I’m not. I suck at running. I’m awful at it. I’m slow–painfully slow, and it doesn’t bring me lots of joy the way it does many of my runner friends. Instead, I see running as really hard work and on most days I’d rather crawl back under the covers when my alarm sounds at 4:30 AM.

Races are usually discouraging. More people pass me than I am able to pass, and my personal records are beyond my reach these days. I cannot remember the last time I beat my best time at any distance.

I’ve also become injury prone. I suffer from bad knees and take supplements to relieve the joint pain. Last year, when I complained to my doctor about some neck and upper back pain, he noticed my shoulders are somewhat asymmetrical. X-rays confirmed a mild case of scoliosis so now my recovery from long runs often includes taking a muscle relaxer, and I hate the way it makes me feel.

Running is hard. I suck at it. It hurts, and I find it completely discouraging. So, why do I run? Why put myself through it? I run because I suck at it. I suck, but I keep trying to get better.

I’m competent at most of what I choose to do in life. I’m pretty confident in all my roles. For example, I’m a pretty good teacher. I know how to develop my students’ thinking. I know how to design learning experiences and how to manage a learning environment. I also know my subject well. I love reading and writing, and I know what it takes to be a good reader and writer. I’m able to develop strong relationships with my students and my colleagues. And I’m able to leverage these things to continually improve my practice. Being in a classroom is “in my wheelhouse.”

However, I know the same isn’t true for all my students. For many of them, being in a classroom is hard work. School is discouraging. When their alarms go off each morning, they want to crawl back under the covers and not get up for school. They may find my class to be painful or uncomfortable. They may think they “suck” at reading and writing. They may have learning difficulties to overcome each day, and they may get tired of learning always being so hard.

So I run. I run to empathize. I run to better understand. I run because quitting isn’t always an option. Running is hard, but I’m a better teacher having ran.

7 comments

  1. Brianna

    Wow. I too suck at running…but I also don’t try to do it every day. I love the point you make about growth mindset and having empathy for others. I’ve realized recently (as I was teaching it in fact) that I often stay very safely inside my wheelhouse and very rarely force myself to do things for which I do not feel comfortable.

    And as I was asking my students to set a “stretch” goal for this marking period, I challenged myself to do the same–a real goal that would make me struggle.

    But I’m still not running…or getting up at 4:30am. So my props go to you for sure! 🙂

    • Philip

      I’m glad we have the running thing in common, Brianna. Well, sort of. 🙂 Seriously, I’m guilty of expecting my students to be willing to struggle and to keep on trying, but I don’t do it myself very often. Running is a struggle, but I’m sticking with it for now. I run 5 days a week, and I’m training for a marathon. I’m trying to be all in even though it’s hard. Kudos for setting a stretch goal. I’d be interested to hear more about it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Diana

    Hey Philip 🙂

    I also suck at running. I’m painfully slow and really only run as an excuse to have some time to myself to listen to music… I stopped running in March and am surprised to realize I really miss it. Your blog post is a big kick in the pants and guilt trip to get back at it again.

    I ask my students to set goals, it’s time for me to practice what I preach 🙂

    As always, I really enjoy your posts-there is something inspiring or thought provoking in each one.

    And the next time we meet, let’s go for a slow, painful run, eh? #ISTE15? 🙂

    Diana

    • Philip

      Thanks for sharing, Diana. You make an excellent point—not everything about running is bad. I enjoy times when I get to run with friends or with a group. I love being up for spectacular sunrises, and I feel better for being active. I hope my struggling students can find a few “bright spots” in my class, too, whether that be through working with peers or the oft-attempted use of humor. 🙂

      I’m in for a slow, painful run with you anytime! Thanks for stopping by, Diana! You rock!

  3. Jenny

    I’m so reassured to read this and realize I’m not the only one running and doing it badly. (Especially when others have commented to agree.) My reasons for running vary but I, like Brianna, had never thought about the connection to my students. When I do things I don’t enjoy and aren’t good at, this will be immensely helpful to remember.

    Run at Educon? If the weather is good enough, of course. It should be noted, I really, really am slow!

    • Philip

      Thanks, Jenny! I would love to run at Educon. My plans still aren’t set, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to make it again this year. And slow is good! I’m all about some slow running and slow learning these days. 🙂

      • Brianna

        Jenny,

        I run badly, slowly, and only sproadically. BUT I am going to EduCon this year for the first time! I hope to meet up with you and Philip–running or not 🙂