I had never liked running. In fact, I had quite disliked it. Unless I had to, I’d never ran more than a few kilometres in training (water polo) or entered a big city fun run every few years.
It all changed last March. I got a ‘sedentary’ job at Moodle HQ after a decade spending days on my feet in either the classroom teaching or the side of the pool coaching. Within a couple of weeks, I got fidgety and went for a lunchtime run. About 4km at a leisurely pace … thought I was going to die
A few runs later I started feeling fitter, the positive feedback loop began again, 10 years after leaving elite-level sport, and … the rest is (recent) history. Since that lunchtime run I’ve clocked up over 1500km, I now regularly run between 30 and 50km a week, I’ve finished a couple of half-marathons and a full marathon (and aiming to run Perth (June) & Sydney (Sep) marathons this year) but most importantly – I am a lot healthier and happier, not to mention lighter and fitter (Faster? Meh, a little I suppose …)
But my absolute favourite are the long, slow runs. Every Saturday, or sometimes Sunday, I take off at 5am and run between 20 and 32 km. It is a moving meditation. Fresh air, just me and the path, the rising sun, usually along the river, watching the glassy, misty river waking up, spotting birds and sometimes graceful duets of dolphins along the way, a whole set of favourite tunes in the background in my ear, while listening to my body and noting what is going on. Sometimes I push it a bit, most of the times I simply amble along for two, three hours straight. I do wear a GPS timer and all that but so often, kilometres and pace just don’t matter. I get totally immersed in the simple act of running yet so often come up, totally randomly, with great ideas for other areas in my life.
I have a clear goal that requires a reasonable effort, it is achievable but I do need to work hard for it, I receive direct, instant and constant feedback, I have a sense of control and the whole thing is intrinsically rewarding (yeah, it is called ‘flow’ and many have described and experienced it since the ancient times).
It’s (only) running I know, but imagine these to be the guiding principles of what we do (at least for most of our time) in our classrooms and lecture theatres. How can we help our students, and ourselves, experience ‘the flow’ as often as we/they can by learning and doing? Not (just) ‘how do we ‘cover’ what the government syllabus requires’ and similar?
Dreamy? Unrealistic? Childish? Rose-coloured views? Yeah, so were my 30k-morning-runs a year ago. And so was perhaps that task you were so totally immersed, absorbed in you forgot to even eat (sadly, for many people that stretches back to their childhood).
‘I have a naive trust in the universe – that at some level it all makes sense, and we can get glimpses of that sense if we try.’ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, well-known researcher of ‘flow’
PS This is a totally self-indulgent post on a hobby of mine. I am neither some fast or experienced runner, nor am I trying to get you to start running (feel free to do so though…). I simply thought I’d share, in context, something I have experienced myself and something I have seen, sometimes the smallest glimpses of, in my classes. Powerful, memorable stuff!