I’m not just another mother runner; I’m another teacher runner. Between my own munchkins at home and a flock of kiddos at school, my time on the run is the only time I won’t be asked to wipe a bottom, open a jammed locker, mediate a conflict, find a missing sock, chaperone a dance, organize a bake sale, sit in a dunk tank, or proofread a paper. (The sole sisters I run with might cop a squat by the side of the road, but they don’t expect me to wipe them.) When I run, nobody talks back to me, nobody asks me the same exact question I just answered two seconds ago, and most importantly, nobody needs me.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids, I love teaching, and I love being needed. But I also love the freedom of being inaccessible. In this season of my life, the only way I can get that is to literally run away from it all. And so I do. During the school day, I’m consumed by No Child Left Behind, but once I strap on that Garmin, it’s every child left behind.
I don’t want to sound flippant. When you invest your life in children (either your own or the ones you borrow for the school day), you pay the price in worry. Is Jimmy taking drugs? Did Susie eat breakfast today? Are our test scores high enough? Do these kids realize how amazingly beautiful, smart, creative, and important they are? As a teacher and a mother, I know I have the power to both nurture and destroy. I want my legacy to be a positive one, but I never know when one off-hand comment or poorly-phrased attempt at constructive criticism will crush a tender ego. And while I know I have considerable power, I so often feel powerless.
Except when I run. Although my pace puts me squarely in the middle of the pack, when I hit the pavement, I’m invincible. Running is my way of coping with the inevitable anxiety, pressure, and heartache that are the hazards of caring—and living.
There are other benefits, of course. Running makes me more patient and less stressed, happier and healthier-- all usual suspects. But here’s one more benefit: I may spend most of my life surrounded by hormone-flooded, acne-plagued, perpetually inconsistent adolescents, but if worse comes to worse, I know that I can outrun them.