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Teacher’s Journal: Running the NYC Marathon

When the invitation to run the marathon with my Success Academy colleagues popped up in my inbox last spring I was skeptical. To say I was an inexperienced runner is understatement at best. Until then I had jogged no more than four miles. Most of those miles I had logged in high school to fulfill a gym requirement. So completing a 26.2-mile race seemed like an insane, if not unattainable, goal.

In the end, though, I threw caution and all common sense to the wind – literally – and accepted the challenge. In less than six months I would run 26.2 miles and, hopefully, survive to teach the next day.

Training for a marathon, it turns out, is not much different from your first six months of teaching – an experience I like to compare to drinking out of a fire hose. The sheer volume of demands and the speed at which you must respond to them can feel overwhelming. It is especially daunting to train for a marathon and start the new school year. More than once I took a long look at myself, shook my head and questioned the wisdom of my decision.

Somewhere along the way, however, something changed. When I went for short runs, I explored the streets and neighborhoods of Brooklyn. On the weekends, I ran across the bridge to Manhattan and weaved through to the grid. The runs no longer felt like a burden but rather a retreat from the demands of the week.

On marathon day, I woke up excited and ready to run the 26.2 miles. I fastened my knee straps, threw on an extra layer of clothes and boarded the packed Staten Island Ferry for the starting line. Energized by the crowd, I blasted off and pushed through the wind.

Both my boyfriend, who ran alongside me, and I kept up a good pace until mile 15. At mile 15, while crossing the Ed Koch Bridge, the combination of wind and exhaustion hit me like a ton of bricks. My pace slowed to a crawl and thoughts of giving up came creeping into my head. It was at this point that I glanced across the water to Manhattan; the finish line was near.

Just keep going, I said. I ignored the cold wind and my aching legs and kept pushing. I was reminded that every day I ask my scholars to push themselves past what they think is possible. I assure them that grit will help them achieve their wildest ambitions.

I was reminded that every day I ask my scholars to push themselves past what they think is possible. I assure them that grit will help them achieve their wildest ambitions.

As I crossed the finish line on Sunday, I felt the thrill of accomplishing my own wild ambition.

And I survived to teach the next day.

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Written by Margaret Jones November 5, 2014

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