The Parallels of Running and Teaching

I’ve noticed a neat trend on Twitter these days: a lot of teachers are also runners. Now, this isn’t to say that runners are exclusively teachers and teachers are exclusively runners. However, I see more and more teachers picking up this aerobic hobby and…running with it. (Sorry. Had to.)

As a teacher-runner myself, I began to wonder why there are so many educational professionals who enjoy this tiring, sweaty, and monotonous form of exercise. Could it be that running super-charges us with some magic elixir that makes us better teachers? Or, maybe teachers just need to stretch out those legs on a long run after a full day of propping our feet up on our desks and eating Bon Bons, while watching our students mentally slave away on tests all day. (Are you laughing as hard as I am right now?! Hope so.)

One thing that will excite any teacher-runner: new running shoes.

No, I think the reason why so many teachers run is because there are some serious similarities between running and teaching. Let’s count them off:

1. Both require PASSION. Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), author of Teach Like a Pirate, states that one of the cornerstones of good teaching and engaging learners is passion. Not only passion for teaching, but, “passion for what you do in life.” I believe that the difference between a “runner” and “a person who runs” is passion. Runners are passionate about hitting the road, even in snowstorms or on the hottest day of the year. Similarly, teachers are passionate about seeing all students learn, including the most advanced students and those with numerous obstacles in their way. Think about it: without passion, would you still be a teacher or a runner?

2. Both require ENDURANCE. Of all the many different things I have attempted in my life, I can honestly say that the one thing that has required the most endurance is teaching. Running comes in a close second. Both require a tough mental mindset and a little voice in your head that tells you to keep your chin up and to keep going no matter what.

Teachers endure a lot on any given day: lesson-planning, student behaviors, IEP meetings, recess injuries, district demands, administrative demands, parent demands, standardized testing, Pinterest addictions, classroom pets, at-risk students, and much more!

Runners must endure some of the toughest outdoor elements while also overcoming mental fatigue, physical fatigue, injuries, dehydration, sunburns, overall soreness, hilly terrains, shoes falling apart, and good ole chafing. Not to mention, teacher-runners also have to find the time to run. On school days, that means we’re likely running before the sun comes up or after it sets.

3. Both require GOALS. The process of becoming a teacher and a runner is a slow and steady process. Many of us start off with many years of college and student-teaching assignments, slowly gaining experience and hearing the Dos and Don’ts of teaching from educational veterans. As novice teachers, we begin setting our professional goals and where we want to end up in the educational realm. Some of our goals are to stay in the classroom, while others set goals to become administrators or curriculum developers. All teachers’ goals are not the same, but we all work hard to strive to reach them.

Transforming into a runner is a long process, too. It takes months – even years – of training, preparing, practicing, and increasing those distances. Runners have different goals, too, just like teachers. Some set the goal to run a 5k or multiple 5ks. Others strive for that mid-distance, the 10k or the half-marathon. Others, like myself, have their sights set on the pinnacle of running distances: a marathon.  Like teachers’ goals, runners’ goals are varied to a certain point. That point is crossing the finish line…that is one goal that every runner has in common.

4. Both result in EXHAUSTION. If you haven’t started teaching or running yet, but are interested in one of those two paths in life, I recommend you skip this segment and jump to Number 5.

I will not lie: teaching and running are both exhausting. Both a long day at work and a long run (which, for me, is around 12 miles or so) will literally knock me off my feet. I wish I was saying that in a figurative sense, but I’m not. But I keep going back, day after day, for more! I will admit that I’m not exhausted every time I run or every day I go to work. But I know that when I come home in an exhausted state, I worked my hardest and that alone makes me feel better than the days when I come home with more of a pep in my step.

5. Running doesn’t require a lot of MONEY. This is good, because teachers don’t really make a lot of that anyway. I think I spent a total of $180 on good, running shoes last year and maybe $110 on race entry fees. Not bad…

6. Both yield INTRINSIC REWARDS. I’m saving the best parallel for last. Teachers (altruistic teachers) and runners (non-professionals) do not teach or run for gifts or glory. Teacher-runners definitely do not seek fame or fortune. We teach and we run for two things only: joy in our souls and a smile in our heart. We teach and run for the intrinsic rewards it gives us…which is one of the best rewards you could ever ask for.

I’d also like to say that some of the kindest, purest people I know are teacher-runners. They work hard for themselves and work harder for others. If you are interested in connecting with other teacher-runners, look for the #runteacherrun hashtag on Twitter.

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