Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My running streak- focus, persistence, commitment

Back in December of 2014, I was fortunate to be recognized by students, staff, family, and friends for something that started in August of 1987- a daily run.  That's right.  I have run every day since August 30, 1987.  That's over 27 years, a span of over 10,000 days.  My daily run can happen at any time of the day or night, on a treadmill, in school hallways, or outside.  Most often I run alone, but some of my favorite runs are with large groups of people, specifically marathons like Boston and Chicago.  Do you want to know why I started my running streak?  Well, you'll have to wait until the end of this blog.
I have often been asked a series of questions about my running, often with the topics of injuries or how far a marathon is (By the way, marathons are all 26.2 miles.) or why I started or continue my streak.  I answer any and all questions mostly because showing an interest might spark others to begin their own streak of exercise, whether that be running, walking, biking, swimming, or just about anything else that gets a person moving and physically active.
In thinking about this streak the other day, I realized that it has taken focus, persistence, and commitment.  Focus has allowed me to keep running in the forefront of my daily schedule.  Persistence has allowed me to find the time- morning, noon, or night- to keep the streak alive.  Commitment has allowed me to make my run a priority, no matter what the day brings.  There are five main reasons that I continue my streak.

#1.  Running has allowed me to visit great destinations.
I have had the opportunity to run in races in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Madison, and Milwaukee, to name a few.  I have run around Lambeau Field, crossed the 50-yard line at Camp Randall, and crossed the finish line in Boston at the end of the 100th Boston Marathon.  I have run in nearly every state east of the Mississippi River and most of the states west of the Mississippi River.  I've also run in Canada and had an encounter with a bear, but fortunately the owner of the fishing lodge had a loaded gun to keep me safe.

#2.  Running is the true definition of "me time".
Whether it's before school, after school, or any other time of the year, running allows me to be alone.  A vast majority of the times I have run during my streak have been on my own.  I have watched more sports on television while running on a treadmill than I can even recall.  I have run on rugged trails and busy city streets.  If  I run with people, it's normally because I'm in a race or have met someone at a conference or on vacation that shares a similar interest.  But I must say, my normal 30-minute or so 4-mile run allows me to refresh and relax on my own so that I can, hopefully, be a better husband, father, and educator.

#3.  Running allows me to be a positive role model.
My work as a principal puts me in contact with students, staff, and families nearly every day.  Many of them would be able to tell you that I run every day.  My daily run is something that nearly everyone knows about and hopefully finds worthy of modeling, too.  There have been days when I have run with students and staff, sometimes as a fundraiser and sometimes as part of our yearly Celebration Day.  My hope is that many of the students and staff find their own way of being physically active and healthy because of my streak.

#4.  I have met some great people while I was running.
During my running streak, I have been able to speak with all sorts of people.  I have had some great conversations with lawyers, doctors, business people, educators, and regular people just like me.  My favorite story goes back to a time before my running streak began.  I ran with Mr. John Archer, the famous "Black Bart" of the Boston Marathon.  We were members of the same church and I met him on the start line of Al's Run in Milwaukee.  He changed me, over the course of that 8K run, from a low level Division 1 NCAA sprinter to a distance runner with a goal of going just one mile farther than the last day.  Mr. Archer told my stories of his runs with Bill Rodgers, Boston Marathon great, and my thoughts of running distances other than 440 yards began to become my focus.  Mr. Archer was my contact with running greatness and I really believe he is the reason that my streak began.

#5.  I do some of my best thinking while running.
Spending 30 minutes alone every day allows me to let my mind wander.  I don't need to talk to anyone unless I am in a race or have chosen to run with someone.  Many days I wait until school is over and think about the day, or the day to come, and what I need to do to make sure that I have done all that I can to make that day a success for our students and staff.  When I'm running, my thoughts move from the daily interactions I have with students and staff, to phone calls and emails, to personal responsibilities, to my family.  The opportunity to think about my entire day, and sometimes the day to come, make my run a way to relax, refresh, and renew to provide focus for my life and the lives of those I come in contact with every day.

There are so many people who have supported me during my streak.  The most important is my wife Jenifer, the love of my life for the past 22 years.  She has sent me for runs when our daughter was born, when a relative has died, when we've been on vacation, and just about any other experience you can imagine.  She has also stood behind me, literally, on one of the two days that I have only run one mile.  One day I had surgery and I ran before the procedure.  Jen went to work the next day and I snuck into the basement to run one mile on our treadmill for a mile.  I didn't tell her until she got home from work.  The other day was when I had walking pneumonia and she stood behind me as I ran a mile on the treadmill.  She knows the importance of this streak to me.  My daughter has also sacrificed time with me due to my streak, but she has also been able to visit Boston and Chicago and some other great locations because of my running.  My family and friends have also supported me in ways I cannot even believe to make sure that the streak keeps going.  And most recently, my PLN family has supported me with words of encouragement.  I cannot thank all of these individuals enough for their support.

So here's the answer to the question I posed in the first paragraph of this blog- Why did I start my running streak?  In August of 1987, I was coaching boys' volleyball at my alma mater, Waukesha South High School.  I had a great group of young men and I was putting them through a series of cardiovascular activities, and I couldn't keep up with them!  I decided right then that I needed to start running to get back in shape.  And I haven't missed a day since then.  I hope that this short blog will somehow give you the inspiration to start a healthy streak of your own.