The last half marathon I ran was one of the most challenging races I’ve ever experienced. The beauty was that it took place in the community that has become like home – High Point, NC. The challenge was that the last quarter mile or more was completely uphill. As I rounded the last corner and saw what seemed like a mountainous hill in front of me, at mile 12.75, I could feel the exhaustion in my legs. My body willed me to stop and walk. I passed other runners walking and thought to myself, “See, it’s perfectly okay to walk up this last hill. It won’t affect your time that badly.” I kept pace and continued to move my legs in rhythm to the blaring music pumping through my headphones. I passed more runners frustrated, stretching at the base of the hill cursing, and angry with their bodies for not cooperating on this last stretch of the race. The hill loomed in front of me and I instinctively leaned in. I turned the volume up a little more and pushed my legs to work harder than I thought they could possibly stand. In my head, I chanted my mantra, “Mind over matter. Mind over matter.” Mentally encouraging myself to push through by reminding myself that, “I’ve prepared for this. I’ve trained for this moment.” These affirmations repeated over and over in my head. As I crested the top of the hill, out of breath and heart pumping, I ran the last few yards towards the finish. I crossed and stayed there cheering for those who finished after me. We clapped each other on the back and shared the sayings you typically say after a race, “Good run. Nice pace out there. Way to push through.” One comment stood out the most. He said, “I saw you pass me on that hill and I just didn’t know if I had anymore left in the tank. I didn’t think I had any more to give.” Now this guy had just crossed the finish line too, so clearly he found more to give. Until this moment, I hadn’t thought a lot about that conversation but it seems fitting. In racing most strive to win or accomplish a personal best (PB), and it’s all about time. Every minute and every second matter towards achieving that PB. We train using workouts, tempo runs, long runs, short runs, sprints, and hills preparing to cut seconds and minutes off our run time in hopes of this accomplishment.
As we approach the end of the school year, this memory crossed my mind. As educators, we are all the runners approaching the end of our annual race. We have been training hard all year, for some all semester, for our grand finish. Our mountainous hill, this final month of May, is in front of us. What will we do? Will we walk and convince ourselves that average performance/effort is acceptable? Will we find blame in our students and ourselves and give a lackluster finish? Will we underestimate ourselves and students and not expect greatness? Or will we lean in, turn the music up, push harder than we ever thought we could, and focus our thinking so we can end with your personal best?
May matters. It’s up to you, educator. The choice is yours. Students are depending on you. What will choose?