We started our running club with just two goals: to be a team and have fun. While we have been successful with those goals thus far, we are getting a lot more out of it than just those two things.
Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon our club meets for one hour. We gather on the porch, discuss the day’s practice plan, and then slowly jog to a stretching area. We talk about being a team, being good teammates and what that means to each of us. The word “support” comes up time and time again. We intentionally support each other, and that support can take many forms. During our first practice I referred to an NBA study that showed that the most successful teams are the teams that physically support each other with high fives, pats on the shoulder, etc. This has become one of our rituals. We make physical contact along with our verbal encouragement.
After our warm-up stretch and talk, we run. The wet weather has made for more road running than trail running, but that hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm. Like most running, our practices require a lot of individual effort. Regardless of team support, most runs come down to each individual choosing to push themselves to a place of discomfort. Our students do this willingly, day after day. After our practice runs, which often have each of us running our own pace, we regroup for a team cool down jog and stretch. Encouragement and support are always present.
I’ve heard from several spectators from other teams about our new running club. They are struck by our camaraderie. One woman said, “Those kids just finished running their hearts out and they couldn’t wait to get back on the course to cheer on their teammates in the next race. Can my daughter join your team?” Statements like this sure make me proud to be one of their coaches and teachers.
As most of you can relate, running long distance is difficult. It doesn’t matter if you are winning races or barely making it to the finish line without stopping, runners experience discomfort along a scale that goes from weariness to exhaustion. It is easy to talk about pushing through adversity while we’re in a classroom. In running club, we live it. We embrace the challenge, which is why it is so easy to genuinely respect the efforts of each of our running mates. We know each other’s pain, because we’ve fought through it as well.
As some of you may know, my father was recently diagnosed with cancer. He started his aggressive treatment program yesterday, and he’s fighting for his life. Earlier in the week, my brother said to him, “You’re a runner. This is one more challenge. You can beat this. And we’re with you.”
I thought of our running club. We’re teaching life skills here. We’re teaching to fight against adversity, to try our best despite conditions, and to support one another. And we’re having fun. Together.
Thank you for supporting and encouraging our students each and every day. Have a great weekend.