Friday, August 24, 2018

Running Them In

After a baby-induced sabbatical, my wife has returned to running. Her first post-baby 5K was a couple of weekends ago, taking us back to a world we've spent lots of time in. And yes, she ran pushing the twins, because she's that adorable.

Many of the same old faces were there. We don't live in a huge area, and if you run the 5K circuit, you see many of the same runners race after race (you also, if you're the guy who waits supportively for his spouse, see many of the same supportive faces race after race). I ran years ago, but plantars facitis sucks, so I stopped.

My wife and the Board of Directors get ready to roll.
There's one runner I've watched for years who I find fascinating and inspirational. He usually finished toward the front of the race, though he doesn't win often. But as soon as he crosses the finish line, he circles around and goes back up the course. He'll meet other runners as they approach the final stretch, and he'll run with them (he's not the only person to do this, but he's the one I see always doing it). He may shout encouragement at them, he may cheer for them, he may just run silently beside them. But he runs them the rest of the way in.

Over and over and over, until I swear he has essentially run the whole race twice, he runs out, looks for someone who can use a hand, and runs them in. And he seems to be able to gauge what sort of coaching do they need-- support? a little kick in the butt? silence? chatter? a boost to come in strong, or just enough support to make it across the line?

I'm always moved by this display. Running is a tough sport, but every race is a reminder in many ways that competition doesn't have to be cutthroat. And in the average 5K, you'll see everything from people who train relentlessly and seriously to people who are just giving it a try. This guy runs with all of them.

It's not a perfect analogy for teaching, but it still strikes a chord-- reaching out to help people who are trying to meet their own personal goals, whether it's to beat their own personal best or just to finish. There's no judginess at these events; spectators and finished runners don't stand on the final stretch and holler "Loser!" or "Sad!" or "You need a remedial running class" at people who are struggling to some in at the back of the pack. The assumption is that everyone is just trying to do the best they can, and that making the attempt is deserving of support and a cheer. It's not that the race doesn't separate folks into winners and losers-- it absolutely does-- but it doesn't make winning and losing indicative of anything else. Maybe you ran the 5K in more time than another person did; that doesn't mean anything about your worth as a human being or your right to take up space on the planet or how deserving you are of help or support or love. I can't imagine that the races would better or faster if the runners and the crowd were harsh, cruel, trying to threaten runners with dire consequences if they didn't hit the mark.

The race is hard. You ran the best you could. Good for you.

And at the end, we cheer you on, maybe even run you in so that you cross that line with someone by your side, because runners run against each other, but they run with each other, too. They work to make the mark, to overcome the obstacle together, all the way to the end. School, I think, ought to feel more like that.

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