I have been taking longer runs over the past six weeks. This is partly because it's spring, and there is more daylight in which to exercise. It also has to do with the school district's wellness competition. We were encouraged to make a team with members of our site's staff, and then track our physical activities each day over the course of a month and a half. The expressed intent from on high was that this was a way to encourage those of us who are more sedentary to get up form behind our screens and move about. In previous years, simply counting the steps that a teacher takes over the course of a normal school day would qualify them for substantial activity. Walking with your class in and out from recess, to and from lunch, wandering about the playground during yard duty, and all of the meandering about the classroom to peek over the shoulders of students working feverishly on their assignments.
This year was different, and finding an excuse to move about was welcome.
But why was it a competition? Because we are human beings, and we might not push ourselves unless we can hear the footsteps of those behind us, or those passing us by. Early on, I was pleased to find myself among the leaders not just at my own school, but citywide. I attributed this to my compulsive need to complete things like the daily form in a timely fashion. There were those who would let a day or two go by and then fill in out of memory. Not me. I needed that satisfaction of seeing my numbers go into the chart as I finished them. Running. Walking. Biking. I was gratified to discover that yard work, strenuous yard word, was a category. Mowing the lawn was now more than simple home maintenance, it was points for my team.
And did I mention there was a trivia component as well? Each day brought a new question about our virtual trip around the globe. I started each day answering those, only missing a few over the course of the challenge. But those misses made me acutely aware that there were those who were getting every question right, putting me in danger of losing my spot at the top of the leader board.
Somewhere in all of this came a voice I recognized. "It doesn't matter if you're first or last. If you're doing your best, that's all that matters." That voice was my own. It was my voice encouraging student who, like a much younger version of me, struggled when it came to physical education. There will always be someone ahead of you, and almost certainly someone behind you. That's what I thought about on the closing weekend of the wellness challenge, as I noticed a long-legged stride pass me on my left, and across the street on my right, someone else was chugging along uphill in the opposite direction. I couldn't help but compare my own gait to theirs and wonder if, perhaps, one of these folks were the names I saw clustered around me as I entered my totals at the end of the day.
Then I reminded myself that next week I will still be running along at my same pace, and some people will be hanging up their sneakers until next year. Finishing last is better than not finishing at all.