September 20, 2020

Running Goals

I’m not much of a goal setter. Whenever I have had had success in the past, I have usually chalked it up to good luck or “things just working out.” I can’t think of too many times when I have had an expected outcome for something and deliberately planned it out.

So I wasn’t over thinking things in January, when I decided to start running again after a few years after breaking my ankle. My goals, if I had to make them explicit, at the time, were to feel less lazy and to feel strong.

A quick trip down memory lane- in 2016 I started running and things got more and more serious as I got to feeling better and better. I started by barely being able to run for more than three minutes, to running a few 10kms races and even a half marathon. Then in November of that year I broke my ankle and hadn’t really done any meaningful exercise since.

Fast forward back to January of 2020 and I was determined to get back into a routine. I had my old worn out shoes, a running watch that barely kept time and had to have the strap held together with electric tape and Skyelar’s old headphones that left foam residue all over my sweaty ear and face.

On my first run, I could barely reach 5kms and it took me 36:22 min. Running a plodding 7.5km pace. But it felt good to be back. Three times a week, each run making me feel less lazy and stronger. Goals achieved. I was also listening to podcast and filling my mind with lots of great thoughts and questions.

A few weeks later, I got some new shoes and finally a new Garmin watch. Things were getting a bit more serious and I was trying to get my time closer to a 30min 5km. My friend Lee, told me about the Garmin coach. Which is basically an algorithm that helps you achieve a….wait for it….goal! You tell the app your weight, current pace, how many times a week you want to run and your ideal race time.

I told Coach Amy (she is the fictional coach in my watch) that I wanted to run a 29.30 5Km by running four times a week for sixteen weeks. Felt simple, easy and totally doable. This was in May.

In June, Mairin got me some great Air Pods and I was cooking. Amy had me running hills, different distances and tracking my progress- bit by bit and step by step. 13km here, 8km there, I never missed a run. If I knew I was going out on Friday night, I would wake up in the morning and clock a 7km run. If I was a bit hungover, I would stomp through a short Saturday evening run.

Sometime in August, I achieved my goal of 29:30 so I changed it to 29, then 28:30, then I bought some new proper Under Armor running clothes. So here I am in September, decked out in proper gear, cranking tunes these days and getting ready for my last session with Coach Amy with the goal of a 27:30 5km.

Woke up Saturday morning fresh, put on Vs by Pearl Jam and hit the concrete. I felt great. I was running fast and furious and didn’t feel lazy or tired, but strong. I was not pushing myself too hard and kept a stay pace throughout. When it was all over I came in at 26:21 with a 5:15 a km pace. I never dreamed I would be running at that pace in January.

I’m not sure if that is a good time, but that’s the beauty of running, you are always trying to beat your own personal best and here I had blown myself out of the water. Although shout out to Martin for always making me want to go a bit faster to keep up with him.

Maybe setting deliberate goals, with feedback and adjustments really does work. I wonder what other areas of my life could benefit from this type of explicit goal setting?

My time with Coach Amy is over and I wasn’t sure what would come next- below an hour 10km, or a faster five. The 10 km goal will have to wait. For the next eleven weeks, Coach Greg and I will be trying to get my 5km time to 25 mins. Who knows maybe in a few weeks, I will be looking at getting below twenty five mins.

June 7, 2020

Sparks That Lit The Fire

It’s hard to know what to say about the Black Lives Matter movement and the protesting for change to the white supremacist America structures.

Silence is complicity. 
Remain quiet and listen.

Most white people I know want to do the right thing and are looking for ways to get involved. It might appear that we’re assuaging our white guilt or that we’re guilty of performative alleyship. I hope this post and the ones that follow do not fall into those categories. I understand the value of amplifying black voices and I realise that this may not be the best time to add my voice to the collective white noise. Having said that- I feel my friends, close followers on Twitter and some of my students may benefit from hearing the stories that have led me to my current state of understanding.

I am no expert in this field and many of my stories will surely lack academic scrutiny. I do not claim to be “woke” any more than anyone else, but I have worked my whole life trying to understand injustice bred from racism. While my work has been unevenly tilted toward awareness and less toward action, I hope that sharing these stories, I may enlightened a few friends, family and students. I’m hoping that this stock-taking of my own experience will inspire others to help motivate us find ways to transform learning into concrete action.

I'm curious about the stories of when people were radicalised or how our past experiences influence our values and beliefs. I believe in the value of sharing stories in an effort to unearth and connect.

Much of my learning comes from music, films and books, so I thought I’d write a series of posts about how various media have influenced my consciousness. I wanted this series to highlight various Black authors, artists and filmmakers that have shaped my views.

But are you ready for the biggest irony of ironies? 

If I really want to start from the beginning, which as a first post in a series seems to make sense- I need to start with a white Jewish dude from Minnesota.

My race awareness begins with Bob Dylan. I remember his voice for as I long as I remember hearing. Blowing In The Wind and Times Are A Changin’ were the soundtrack of my childhood.

It must have been in Middle School when I started studying the 1964 album The Times Are Changin’. Songs like Ballad of Hollis Brown, With God on Our Side, North Country Blues were more important to me than any text book or curriculum I was learning in school. Even my childhood growing up in a predominately non-white community hadn’t prepared me for the stories unfolding in these songs.

The songs that stand out as the sparks that lit my fire were:

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll 

“But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain't the time for your tears”

Only A Pawn In Their Game

“The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool
He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
'Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain't him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.”

I can’t say I knew too many Black stories at that point in my life beyond MLK's I Have A Dream speech, and so in a world without the Internet, it was a Dlyan song that introduced me to Medgar Evers. Although my two best friends in elementary school were Black their lives and cultures were unknown to me. It was through these Bob Dylan songs that I started to shape my empathy.

For years after that, I became stuck in the romanticised vision of the poor 1960’s negro. These songs and that history did little to teach me about the contemporary plight of the Black people in my community or school. Not once did we have open conversations about Race during this time of my schooling. I can’t help to think how much faster I would have come to important realisations about systemic racism had I had teachers to help me understand that while the civil rights movement and the protest music of the 60’s had improved the Jim Crow south, they had not eradicated racism. Or even come close.I would come to these realisations on my own years later.

I’m sorry I started my series on the power of Black culture on my values and beliefs with a white artist, but it felt important to start at the beginning.

When did you first become awaken to Racism? How old were you? What shed the light?

April 4, 2020

things about things

a few weeks ago,
before the world broke,
i came across a young boy
crying because he had just killed a bird.

“i didn’t mean to,”
he whimpered earnestly.

but the bird was dead:
bloodied beak
snapped neck
crushed wing.

it’s tiny legs
limp and smashed
into the concrete
like damp matchsticks.

his friends circled
the scene
like giddy vultures
confused by blood
and remorse
and endings
they were never equipped
to process.

“it’ll be okay.
it was an accident.
there’s nothing you
could have done.
go play.
don't worry about it.”

i took care of the corpse
and watched the children
return to play and not worry about it.

that was a few weeks ago
before the world broke,
at a school
where we naively tried to teach kids
things about things.