Running the Race…

I am a runner.

2 years ago if someone had told me that I would ever utter the statement, “I am a runner,” I would have laughed at them.  I would have said, “Well, I used to run, in a past laugh, in high school, but I haven’t really run in years.”

Through a friend, I began training with Team World Vision to provide clean water to children and families around the world (primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa).  I ran my first half marathon in May 2016, and since then have run 3 more, with 2 more scheduled before the end of this year.

Running has changed my life and sense of self in many ways, but it’s also a reflection of many parts of myself that are mirrored in my professional life.  Here are some things I’ve learned from running:

I’ll probably never be the fastest or be the best

Running is not really designed to be a competitive sport, which is one of the reasons I like it.  When you’re running a large race and you’re not an elite runner, you’ll probably end up in the middle of the pack.  You might finish a little further up with more training and a little further back with less training, but it’s generally somewhere in the middle.

I understand this, but I also have some very fast friends.  I love them and I appreciate that they slow down to train with me at conferences 🙂 I also have “fast friends” in the academic world–people who I may have started my academic journey with who I feel are far ahead of me in their academic trajectory.  I love them to and I appreciate their willingness always to offer collaboration and ideas.

But I have to remind myself that I need to….

Run the race that is set before me

When I hit the start line, my race starts.  When I cross the finish line, my race ends.  My experience between those two points is a result of my training, my attitude, race conditions, etc.  Some things are within my control and others are beyond my control.  It’s critical that I run my race and try not to look to the side and who is passing me by.

It’s like that with my career too.  I am doing the work that I love, that is important to me and that matters to me at the end of the day.  I’m doing the work I am called to do, so I don’t need to look to the side at who is getting published in a top tier journal next to me, unless it’s to give the runner’s nod and say, “Good job.”

It’s easier to progress as a team

After my first half marathon, I decided to do a second to complete a race series.  Aside from the general craziness of this, I didn’t train for my second half marathon with a team, which meant I didn’t train.  And, I barely made it to the finish line.  It was the longest 3 hours ever.

It’s like that sometimes with research, writing, serving, teaching.  So many things in this academic journey are easier when done collaboratively and collectively.  Time flies when you’re with great people.

Train when no one is watching you

Personal accountability is key though, in moments when you are alone.  I’m most productive in my running and professional life when I set up a schedule and stick to it.  I’m also happiest when I’m running and being productive academically.  So, I’ve just got to stick to what I know.

Finish strong

My last race, I didn’t think I was going to make my goal time, until I saw the pacer with the time that I was aiming for about to pass me.  I know, I know.  It’s not a race, except goals are key too.  I found a final burst of energy and it carried me across the finish line.  That seems to happen every semester too.

Take breaks

After I finish a race, I take some time off, a week completely off and then minimal training for the rest of the month unless I have another race within a few weeks.  I need to be better about this in my academic life as well.  When breaks come, after semesters that are typically packed, I could really use a period of full academic rest followed by less rigorous work for a time.

And now, it’s time for rest.  Gotta recover from a run this morning, and be ready for a long run on Saturday….



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