Meditation on a Run (Part 1 of 4)

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Those who know me personally will immediately know the location of this picture: New York’s Central Park. If it were possible to have an affair with an inanimate object, the Park and I would be dating. And my favorite of all activities in said park is joining the crowds of runners of all ages and sizes as we round the many roads, trails, lanes that weave through the park. I took this picture two days after a run that inspired the series of posts to follow. I think it gives you a good sense of the state in which the posts were first conceived. (If you need further sensory input, stick an ice cube on your neck and turn on a fan.)

It has been a long, dark winter in NYC. We’ve had incredible amounts of snow, and even experienced the thundersnow phenomenon. (See below for a Colbert thundersnow tangent.) Many in the city hole up, but, true to form, 100s of the city’s runners can still be found in Central Park trudging along, bracing against the freezing wind.

I avoided running until mid-January when I was overcome with the need for an outdoor fix. I left work early one weekday and hit the park as dark was rolling in at 4 p.m. White snow blanketed the lawns and ice hung off the rocks. It was beautiful. I was enjoying myself quite a bit–running along bundled up and losing layers. And then I noticed I was getting passed. Now, this is commonplace for me, a person who struggles to run a 10-minute mile. But I wasn’t just getting passed, I was getting blown over by single runners, groups of runners, dogs on leashes, dad-propelled strollers even. And the speed at which they were passing me was impressive.

That’s when excuse-mode set in. At first, it was just an “Oh, well, most likely only the better runners are out mid-winter. If I trained just as long and hard as they did, I would probably be able to keep up.” Then once I was trudging and heaving, and people were still passing me at an easy, steady, speedy pace, I thought, “Well, I am not a natural runner. Some of these people are just naturals.” And then the kicker, a six-pack of runners chatted nonchalantly as they eased on by me, and I noticed my first pony tail. “Oh,” I thought, “they’ve all been men! Of course, it’s getting evening in the park. Only the men are out. And men are always faster.”

Now, I grew up with four brothers, and if there was one thing I had learned: We make much more of biological sex differences than we should. I couldn’t believe I was thinking what I was thinking. As I continued around the bend, cutting my typical length of run in half, I thought how commonplace these same excuses are in education. We use them to explain away any ability/performance difference, and just like they did for my run, they get us off track—focusing us on comparisons and competition rather than helping us focus on issues that would make a difference for our young writers. Thus, the three following posts in this series: 1) Questions of Quality—Is it really about better products or better instruction?; 2) The Natural—Is a good writer born or made?; and 3) Biology, Masculinity and other Poor Excuses for a Poor Writer.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Candyquake
www.colbertnation.com
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