Monday, March 19, 2012

Can Running Make You a Better Person?

Which are You?
There are two kinds of people on earth to-day; 
Just two kinds of people, no more, I say.

Not the sinner and saint, for it's well understood,
The good are half bad, and the bad are half good.

Not the rich and the poor, for to rate a man's wealth,
You must first know the state of his conscience and health.

Not the humble and proud, for in life's little span,
Who puts on vain airs, is not counted a man.

Not the happy and sad, for the swift flying years
Bring each man his laughter and each man his tears.

No; the two kinds of people on earth I mean,
Are the people who lift, and the people who lean.

Wherever you go, you will find the earth's masses,
Are always divided in just these two classes.

And oddly enough, you will find too, I ween,
There's only one lifter to twenty who lean.

In which class are you? Are you easing the load,
Of overtaxed lifters, who toil down the road?

Or are you a leaner, who lets others share
Your portion of labor, and worry and care? 
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
The poem above is one of many items that my friend Roger discusses with his track and cross country teams before each practice.  Every school day, the team spends about an hour in his classroom doing homework and then discussing things like the poem above.  The results are incredible.  Not only does he produce superb athletes, many of whom end up with college scholarships, and state championship teams regularly, but I witness transformations of his students in my classes.

I need not look far to find examples, it's a rerun in fact.  An example this year is a freshman boy who didn't run over the summer, showed up to cross country out of shape.  He developed through the season and was the 6th man on the team.  He was a C+ to B- student, but like in running, he wasn't applying himself.  

But given time, he developed.  This semester he's got the highest grade in his class.  As a freshman he earned #2 in a recent multi-state track meet in the 1 mile running a 4:41.  

These are things I spoke about on Saturday as I ran with Steve, who is also an educator and a life-long runner.  Excellence breeds excellence.  The skills and habits used in various aspects of life transfer and color all aspects of our lives.

Sunday morning I went shopping for some Injinji toe socks when I happened upon this photograph below. The caption for the photograph read, "I Will Pull It One More Mile."

 The photograph is of a draft horse that worked in an underground mine.  These horses apparently went blind due to living their entire lives in total darkness.  

I studied the picture for an extended period of time.  If I wasn't living on a teacher's salary, I'd have purchased it!

My initial response to the picture was one of identity.  I feel like that horse, especially lately.

Then I realized how different people would be moved by the photograph.  I'll leave you to yours.

The more I thought of that picture, the more I realize how perfect of a backdrop it is for many of the sayings runners find motivational.  A few examples are:

  • Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body
  • Strong is What is Left When You've Used Up All the Weak
  • You Don't Get What You Wish For, You Get What You Work For
  • Live Easy, Run Hard
  • Ask Yourself, "Can I Give More?"  The Answer is Usually, 'Yes.'
  • The Miracle Isn't Finishing, The Miracle is Starting
  • To Give Less Than Your Best is To Sacrifice The Gift
And of course, "I Will Pull It One More Mile."

While I will certain think that on a long workout when feeling taxed.  But what about calling upon oneself otherwise, beyond physical challenges?  

Does running make you a better person?

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