But running turned out to be its own reward. I wasn't running against the person standing next to me on the starting line. I was running against - and for, and with - myself. And since I didn't run fast, I decided that at least I could run long.
Long-distance running - as odd as it sounds - is much more of a mental challenge than a physical one. It's all about getting yourself in the right frame of mind and believing you can do it. After that, it's as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. For a very long time.
So why on Earth am I telling you this? Well, as we've raced through our first week of school these past few days, I've found myself drawing on my running experiences quite a bit. Many lessons I've learned on my long runs seem quite applicable to homeschooling - and to life.
- Pace Yourself - You're at the starting line with 20,000 other runners. The gun goes off - and you take off. But run those first miles too quickly, and you'll suffer at the end. I learned quickly to pace myself . . . to start off running slower than I knew I could. I'm a big believer in finishing strong, feeling good and ready to do it again. So as we blazed through the first mile of our homeschool year, I could feel that our pace was too quick. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement, but I can't maintain this pace for the long haul and recognize that we need to slow it down if we're going to do the distance.
- Take Frequent Breaks - Olympic marathoner Jeff Galloway has helped thousands of beginners (myself included) achieve their marathon goal. His secret to running? Walking! His theory is that by taking frequent walk breaks, you run stronger and end up with a faster time than if you'd run the whole way. For me, it also helps me break up a really long run into manageable segments. It's much easier to focus on getting through the next three minutes than the next 20 miles! I've thought of this often when seeing what type of schedule works for us with school. We all seem to work best when we break up our classroom time into several shorter sessions during the day - with different activities in between.
- Refuel Often - During a marathon, it's important to drink and eat at frequent intervals during the race. If you wait until you're hungry or thirsty, it's usually too late. With school, I find it necessary to make sure we all get recharged before we pass our point of no return - and not just with food and drinks but with rest and quiet time too. An hour of quiet time in the afternoon does wonders - for me! It lets me come back to our afternoon classroom time recharged and (usually) helps me avoid Mommy meltdown.
- Don't Race to the Finish - I have many wonderful memories of running races - and very few of them involve the finish line. Instead, I remember chatting with friends (or strangers) along the way. I remember seeing things from a completely new perspective. The finish, really, is just an afterthought. In life, I tend to keep an eye on the finish line - and I'm always in a hurry to get there. Even with school, I'll catch myself rushing to get everything finished - and I'm sure losing valuable teaching opportunities along the way. This is a tough one for me, but I'm really trying to focus more on the journey and less on the destination.