I am fortunate in that our mother encouraged us to gain an education, leading us kids to a love of learning, with foreign languages and music being a constant accompaniment to our teenage existence.
I took up photography and water polo in order to seek respite from the household clamor, because it is quiet in the dark room and there is little talking in the pool. My childhood homelife experience, however, taught me a love of learning for it’s own sake, which is now paying dividends as I attempt to master running as an older triathlete.
Whether you exercise for better health because your doctor told you to, you want to ‘look and feel healthier,’ or you develop an interest in competitive athletics later in life, the chances are that you will do some running. Run incorrectly and you will almost certainly injure yourself, which brings me to the issue of middle and high school running in the United States.
I have watched several generations of kids undertake running at school, starting with my own sons, and now I live with two youths who are great runners, Nick (13) and Jess (17). I attend the meets, see the kids run, and observe the how the coaches behave. These coaches sacrifice much of their free time to help their students. I really admire them for doing that, but I suspect that most school administrators judge their coaches on race day performance. In my opinion, the true measure of success for a high school running program should be based on the proportion of students that continue to enjoy running, or other forms of exercise, for the rest of their life as a result of their school experience. But this, unfortunately, is difficult to measure whereas race-day statistics are provided in real time and they energize the parents, many of whom never run.
Wouldn’t it be great if athletics could be taught in the schools in a way that encourages exercise as a life-long joy, and not a temporary badge of honor. Track and cross-country aren’t about the school’s standings in the press or the parent’s egos, they are about health education for life. Furthermore, intellectual education isn’t about grades, anymore than the martial arts are about colored belts and cups, or the Ironman is about bragging and a tee-shirt. I have two heroes who seemed to get it, Socrates and Mr. Myagi.
Study and sports are about a way of life and the joy of life-long learning. Such a philosophy is difficult to apply, except on a personal level.