Running lessons

In the past nine weeks, I have run (shuffled, jogged, ambled) 128.20km. Before you think this is another smoothly accomplished runner’s ode, allow me to tell you that until nine weeks ago I had never run at all.  So, those sweaty, stumbly half-hours have added up to more than just the sum of their parts for me – not only do they signify a huge achievement, they have been time to think in my day that wasn’t there before. So –  five things I have learnt from running that are equally applicable to teaching:

  1. “I feel strong today”

I LOVE watching athletics on TV. I have always noticed how carefully athletes describe their state of mind/body in interviews: ‘I was a little off today, had a bug this week’; ‘I’m still recovering from injury, so building up slowly’; ‘I feel strong today.’  Every time I run, I try and appraise my state before, so I’m not setting myself up for failure. And on the surprisingly frequent days when ‘I feel strong today’, I say it to myself, joyfully.  I do more than I need to – just an extra minute, or a slight incline. Of course, it’s important to take it easy and give yourself a break when you’re not up to par, either: but ‘I feel strong today’.  Just savour it. It’s not something women generally get permission to say to themselves, and running has given me that.

  1. “You’re half-way through…keep going!”

I’ve been using an app to structure my running and at first, I felt pretty strongly that the occasional motivational messages would simply annoy me – they sounded cheesy and ridiculous.  But you know what? I’ve clung onto those babies like a kangaroo; I’ve used them to give me extra momentum like the wind at my back.  They work. Like many surprising results in psychology – like placebo and like physically smiling to make yourself feel happier – even if you are aware of the research and see through it like a Year 1 child lying: THEY STILL WORK.

  1. “She was only sprinting while I was looking”

My running demons are not really in my own mind – they are generally rather sociable genies that spring up around other people.  Other people that might be watching, scrutinising, laughing, pitying.  Last week I was running around a corner and unexpectedly came upon another runner.  She was absolutely haring it – sprinting hard, probably going three times the speed I was. I smiled humbly and carried on with my route, thinking how great she was, how strong and powerful and how much better than me…then I looped back around and she was walking. I could tell she wasn’t expecting me to come back that way because she jumped and looked abashed while I overtook her.  But what a lesson, in these times of  Pinterest and Facebook and carefully-constructed social media personas: SHE WAS ONLY SPRINTING WHILE I WAS LOOKING.

  1. “Go slower uphill”

This is a sage piece of advice someone gave me that sounds bloody obvious. I understand that. The reality for me is, in the moment, you don’t always notice an incline – not if you’re not looking for it, and even if you do, the inclination (ha!)  is to maintain a steady pace where possible.  I have learnt that this pretty much sets my lungs on fire for the rest of the run.  Similarly: in teaching, sometimes you have to watch out for going uphill and you just need to slow down or risk not being to be fit for the marathon of a whole academic year.

  1. “Storm the master marathon I’ll fly through
    By flash and thunder fire I’ll survive”

While we’re talking cheesy and ridiculous, I’ll finish on this one: the theme song. Music changes you physically and mentally – there’s a reason athletes pump themselves up with their headphones on before an important event. Using music to stimulate and give you power is just as important as using it for relax and calm.  Find your favourite music for energy, for patience, for self-esteem inn the classroom as well as for exercise – both sounds and lyrics can work wonders. If you’re into incredible seventies rock (who isn’t?) I’m a particular fan of Queen’s ‘The Seven Seas Of Rhye’ for pure power.  Listen to it for full orchestral effect; here are the lyrics for a flavour:


Fear me you lords and lady preachers
I descend upon your earth from the skies
I command your very souls you unbelievers
Bring before me what is mine
The seven seas of rhye

Can you hear me you peers and privvy counsellors
I stand before you naked to the eyes
I will destroy any man who dares abuse my trust
I swear that you’ll be mine
The seven seas of rhye

Sister I live and lie for you
Mister do and I’ll die
You are mine I possess you
I belong to you forever

Storm the master marathon I’ll fly through
By flash and thunder fire I’ll survive
Then I’ll defy the laws of nature and come out alive
Then I’ll get you

Be gone with you, you shod and shady senators
Give out the good, leave out the bad evil cries
I challenge the mighty titan and his troubadours
And with a smile
I’ll take you to the seven seas of rhye



Lucy Written by:

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