I am VERY excited to share this guest post by Paul Hankins, teacher, reader and runner. Not only does he keep us all informed about the best new books and run Raw Ink Online with his students. But his running journey has been a huge inspiration to so many of us! You can follow Paul on Twitter at @paulwhankins. Thanks, Paul, for sharing your story:-)
“The Road Behind Me. . .and The One Before Me”
Franki Sibberson has been wanting me to write a post for #runteacherrun for some time.
And I have been resisting.
Resisting for probably the same reasons that kept me from running (and sometimes from writing) for some time. The truth of the matter is this: there are so many people who have been doing it longer than me. Doing it faster than me. Doing it better than me. What could I possibly have to write that would add to a discussion under the banner, “Run, Teacher, Run?”
And when this kind of thinking is allowed to persist for too long, it can lead to inactivity. Before you (or I) know it, we are dragging ourselves quietly to a local Weight Watchers location on a Monday, during a time when we are sure no one will be there (and sure of this because we have already done the online research to assure that no meeting will be taking place when you finally come in). And, if you are like me, you’ll find that you’ve not only swallowed a wealth of ideas that are not being expressed out in the open, you’re also carrying around weight you don’t need to be carrying around.
So. . .for the express purpose of full-disclosure. . .so that you will know exactly where I am coming from (by way of telling you where I have been). . .I can tell you that on August 27th, 2012, I weighed in at 303 pounds.
Hold it. I want to put that number out to my friends again. I said 303 pounds. Are we clear on this?
I walked out of that local Weight Watchers location with a tangible piece of information, in the form of a small, computer-generated sticker to be placed into a blue folder that told the story I had not been telling. I was overweight. Out of shape. I would go so far as to say that I was, quite possibly, in the very worst shape of my life. I walked out with the shame and the pain that might weigh as much as three hundred and three pounds.
But. . .I also walked out with a plan.
The next day, I would begin running a mile a day. That’s it. I would run it for my students in Room 407. This seemed like an earnest offering. For each day that we were in the classroom, I would go downstairs that evening and I would give them a mile.
A mile on the treadmill. Downstairs. Nice and private. No one in the subdivision would have to watch me struggle with my mile.
And I struggled.
That first mile on the treadmill left me absolutely gassed. That first mile took me seventeen and a half minutes. I was sweaty and red-faced, but I had put a mile on that treadmill.
And I kept doing this for the rest of the week until that next Monday. Where I went back to Weight Watchers. I was greeted by the same lady that I had already quietly built a trust in just seven days before. I trusted that she did not run out of the building to tell my story before I could (after all, I’m always looking for a good blog post, and I didn’t want this lady to take the story of the big man who came to weigh in talking about running at 303 pounds. . .I mean, admit it. . .this is a ripe material for a blog; I wasn’t going to lose it).
I stepped on the scale. And I was nine pounds lighter. I couldn’t believe it. One week. Nine pounds.
Oh, and I might mention, that those miles on the treadmill became easier during the week as well. I committed to walking uphill on the treadmill up to thirty minutes (with the time remaining after my mile). Some evenings, this meant running for fifteen minutes and then walking uphill in two minute increments until the time reached thirty minutes.
I kept this up for the month of September. I tracked points religiously. I ran my mile every afternoon after school. I purchased a ten pound Reebok training vest to walk in to remind myself of the ten pounds I had lost
And then, October came. . .and the whole family went to Disney World for a week. There would be no treadmill. I might tell you that when we left for Disney World, I had lost just over twenty pounds. I was going to Disney World at two-hundred and eighty pounds.
And I would run. It would have to be outside. But I would run.
So, I downloaded the Nike App to my i-Phone to track the miles I would run at our Orlando resort. I would get up at five each morning, before the rest of the family was awake, and I would run.
The first morning, I ran a mile. I was still pausing the Nike App now and then as I wasn’t doing what I have come to deem “running miles” yet. But I was excited to post the fact that I was running. And I came to find an online community at Facebook and Twitter that was excited for me and the running I was doing.
Outside. On the road. In the dark. One mile.
And that is how it has been since that first week in October. I still run on the treadmill when the weather or family schedule makes it so I need to get a run in for the day, but for the most part, my runs have been early in the morning, before the break of day.
And I love it.
I remember the morning I put together two miles. And the morning I ran three miles and the Nike App told me that I had just run a 5K. And I remember that the lady at Weight Watchers (who has become a good friend in the past three months) gave me a 5K piece to put on my keyring even though my 5K was not an official run. It felt good that she recognized this personal achievement and I will not forget that she did this as I think about the power of words and informal assessment and praise I might offer to my students when they quietly achieve some personal goal.
By the time I got ready to leave for NCTE/ALAN in Las Vegas in mid-November, I had already logged fifty miles on my Nike App. I was putting together three and four mile runs now and then. I did not make my goal of getting to 250 pounds as I had planned, but I felt better than ever. My rings did not stick on my fingers during security checks at the airport. The belts I had purchased last fall because I needed bigger belts were starting to fail in their task. I felt great.
And while in Las Vegas, I ran seven miles from the MGM GRAND to CIRCUS CIRCUS.
Not once. . .but twice. Once with a partner (Noah, husband of Jennifer Ansbach) on a Sunday morning and on Monday morning before having to leave ALAN to attend the funeral of my neighbor and friend, John Blois.
I came back to s. Indiana with the new truth that I could run seven miles and and not just seven miles, but seven “running miles.”
On Thanksgiving morning, I lined up with over six hundred other runners of various levels of experience and fitness. Not in the dark, but on Thanksgiving morning.
With other runners. Other people who came to run. People like me.
I ran that five miles in just over forty-nine minutes, four minutes faster than the time I had predicted on Facebook to my friends, who were now sending comments on status updates and private messages telling me that they were going to Weight Watchers or that they had started running because of what I was sharing.
I. . .had become a source of motivation to others? Did they not know that some mornings, I still got up thinking about not going outside. About how nice it would be to just stay in bed for another forty-five minutes (which, if we think about it could be at least four miles ((approaching five)) now. . .I have come to think in these kinds of terms now. . .).
I have been encouraged by Franki Sibberson and Sherry Gick and so many other Facebook friends and Twitter followers and those following and using the #runteacherrun hashtag.
And I HAVE been resistant to share any of this with the blog. Because I didn’t think I had anything to share. Well. . .except for this past week:
I ran with local students and teachers in the Miles for Merry Miracles 5K.
I ran my personal best 5K in 28’38’’.
I ran my personal best 7K in 1:10’00”
I ran eight miles on Saturday morning down a beautiful country road.
I am currently in training for a mini marathon at the end of April 2013.
I have put 108 miles on that Nike App I downloaded back in October.
If I am encouraging anyone to weigh in. . .to take stock in where they are vs. where they want to be, then I am truly excited about this. I cannot believe that I am encouraging somebody else when I am still self-talking all of the way up the big hills and to that next mile, but I will continue to share so long as it helps one other person.
Because I have found:
that I am a better husband and father when I feel like a better person.
that I am a better teacher when I want to be outside of my room interacting with students.
that I am a better mentor/instructor when I can share my own path with others.
that I am a runner at heart or I wouldn’t be on the road in the morning.
that my program is my program, no one else’s, but I can share it.
And this week. . .I have to share. . .on a line all of its own:
I bought a pair of Yak Trax.
Yes. So I can continue to run on the snow and ice.
And I have found a platform upon and by which I can generate new ways of thinking and new ideas for classroom approaches. The ideas are coming as I spend time each day just plodding along.
Drawing lessons from where I have been to where I am and to where I think I may be going has me thinking about a new idea for. . .something. . .a blog series. . .a workshop piece. . .a book. . .I don’t know just yet. But there are parallels in the path I have been down since August 28th to the end of this first semester of the 2012-2013 school year that I do not want to miss.
And I don’t want you to miss them either.
On my eight mile run, all of my miles were under 10’30”. My fastest mile over the past three months was an 8’32. By way of formative assessment, I would say I am doing pretty well. I have over one hundred miles on this beloved pair of Asics that have run in Orlando, Florida, Las Vegas, Nevada, and here in Floyds Knobs, Indiana.
So, I am here at Facebook and Twitter (@paulwhankins). I want to share with you and I would love for you to share with me. I have found the sharing of successes (and those near successes when I have actually gained along the way) has been so important early on in this journey.
So. . .friend. . .how’s it going?
Are you ready to take that first step?
Resistance, I have found, is futile. I can say this from a position of someone who is not open any more to hearing anything that sounds like “I can’t.” CAN’T never took a hill like I saw yesterday morning that went up consistently for a half mile. CAN’T never stepped off of the front porch and said, “I think I will do eight miles this morning.”
But don’t let me try to convince you that CAN’T doesn’t exist. It does. It has a physical matter even.
CAN’T weighs exactly 303 pounds (but measures and results may vary).
Eventually, you will draft a blog post just like this one. I know. Because at one time, I was three hundred and three pounds. I am two hundred and fifty-five as I type this post (hey--it’s not a diet. . .it’s a lifestyle).
Legs want to run. Minds want to teach. Hearts want to share. There are people here who will encourage you. Remind you that your program is your program. Give you some advice on what to do next. But in all things, I have found here, there are people who will continually remind you that you are a teacher. And a runner.
A running teacher.
Run, teacher, run.