Monday, May 2, 2011

The Mini Marathon

I ran 13.1 miles on Saturday. Actually, I ran a bit more than that as it took me fifteen minutes just to get to the starting line, but that's beside the point.

The experience was enlightening and reminded me a lot of the journey my students take. I am not a runner. I enjoy running. It is my preferred form of exercise. To say I'm an amateur is an understatement. I do not run competitively. I run for the love of running and because it's the one time when I'm by myself and listening to my own music. I can get out my aggravations and work through problems while I run. But I am not good at it. I do it for no one else but myself.

When running in a large race, like the Derby Festival Marathon and Mini Marathon, you are surrounded by people who are good at running. As I stumbled along, marathoners, people running twice the distance I was, would go breezing by. Better runners who started late would weave in and out of the people like me. I watched as people who were better than me blew past me. People who were better prepared, had been running longer and had access to better running accessories.

I'm going to let you in on a secret on my mini marathon experience. I really didn't train. Not well, anyway. I really didn't know how. Not only that, I really didn't have the time. Toddlers are time consuming to say the least. With a husband who works retail hours, I never knew when my next run would be, let alone a run long enough to prepare for the eventual thirteen and then some miles I would be running for the mini. I made due the best I could by running in doors with my toddler chasing after me. There's no way to really gage how fast you are running or how far when you're running the length from your kitchen to your living room backward and forward for about an hour every day. But I did what I could with what I had available. Most days I'd have to stop in the middle of one of my house jogs to change a diaper or kiss a boo boo.

I did yoga and the Insanity challenge at work to keep up my muscles, but at most, I was running outside twice a week, if I was able to run outside at all. And then, I could only count on maybe an hour to get my run finished. Even at my top speed, around seven or eight minutes a mile depending on the distance, there was no way I was getting anywhere near thirteen miles in within a month of the race. I told myself that was enough and said that if I had to, I'd walk my butt across that finish line, but I was going to finish.

Race day came. The view in front of me looked like this:

The starting line is a tiny blue strip barely visible at the bottom of the buildings in the front. That's how far I had to go just to get to where my competitors were. I was that far behind. Nothing solidified the fact that I was not a runner as much as realizing the real runners were somewhere around a mile in front of me. No matter how fast I ran, I'd never catch them. They had a tremendous head start.

But I ran. I ran with those around me. We cheered each other up. We laughed at the signs we saw, celebrated at the water stops and counted down the miles left to run at each mile marker. At seven miles, further than I've ever run outside in my entire life, I was surprised at how good I felt. I was doing it. I was running. I was in my element. I was having a ball.

And then I fell.

We ran through several tunnels. The first one was the one that got me. It was dark and long. I pulled off my sunglasses and I still couldn't see much around me, which is probably how I missed it. A pothole. My foot sank and my ankle twisted jolting me forward onto my other knee and hands. And I felt shame. Even the people I'd been running with, the non-runners like me, hadn't fallen. I was the only one who fell. I was the one who was injured. And they left me behind. They made sure I was okay and kept on with their own personal mission to run thirteen and then some miles. I cursed creatively as I mopped up my bloody knee and tried to rotate my ankle. I limped out of the tunnel and thought to myself "I'm not going to finish." It was the first time the idea had occurred to me. I told myself all along that I could always walk, but now my ankle was twisted and my knee was torn up. What if I couldn't walk it either?

I was glad to put my sunglasses on. It hid the fact that I was crying. I wasn't crying because I was hurt. I was crying because I was embarrassed. Why didn't anyone else fall? I'm sure others did, but I didn't see it. I was too busy focusing on my own shame. I walked another ten yards, putting an effort into making sure my foot was working in the way it should. I was just over halfway through the race and I was giving up.

"No," I told myself. "No you don't. You're finishing. No car can drive up and rescue you anyway. You might as well hobble your broken self across that finish line." I pulled my head up and began to walk with more determination. "See, you can do this. Try going faster." I picked up my pace and realized it wasn't so bad. I tried jogging and it worked. I didn't dare go much faster, but kept up the jog as I made my way through the race course. I ran through Churchill Downs, past Greek Row at the University of Louisville and made my way back to downtown, back to where we started.

As I ran, I started to see familiar faces. I was catching up with the group I started with. I finished the race surrounded by the people who watched me fall. I finished the race in 2 hours and 40 minutes. I sprinted the last hundred yards. I immediately went to the medical tent afterward to get patched up, but I still finished. I don't know how I would have done if I hadn't fallen. I know I would have done better, but I don't know by how much.

I could have given up when I fell. I didn't. I could have not even entered the race after realizing how far behind I was. I didn't. I kept going. I finished. It may not have been perfect, but it was the time I could do with the resources and obstacles I had. I came away from the experience with a sprained ankle, a torn up knee, a medal and a sense of pride.

For my students, replace the idea of running with reading. Replace the fall with any embarrassing, demoralizing experience students endure during their education. I was able to continue because I was always told I could. It wasn't acceptable for me to make excuses. When students are constantly surrounded by the idea that they can't, through school, media or family or constantly given excuses, we keep them from doing their best.

I don't know if I'll ever run the mini again. The further away I get from the race, the more I want to do it again. Again, this is part of my upbringing. I know I can do better, so I want to try to show that. Rather than simply surviving the test, I want to use it as an opportunity to improve myself. How can we let students view education the same way?

1 comment:

  1. Well heck if that doesn't make you a runner, i don't know what does. I like the camaraderie of being a back-of-the-packer. Sure I have a bit of a competitive edge, but i wouldn't want all the stress of having to beat all the others; i just run for myself. Great job!


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