Running And My Favorite Teacher

AJW writes about what he learned from his seventh-grade social-studies teacher.

By on January 20, 2017 | Comments

AJW's TaproomAs an educator for the last 26 years, I have known many teachers, hundreds of them in fact. And, as with personalities in most professions, they have come in all shapes and sizes. For me, for some reason, every time I meet a really good teacher, I line them up and compare them against my all-time favorite teacher from my childhood, my seventh-grade social-studies teacher, Mr. Sloan. And each time it makes me think back to why Mr. Sloan was so good.

When I boil it all down to the essential facts, there are three simple reasons why Mr. Sloan was such a great teacher, especially for me: he made school memorable, inspired confidence, and held me accountable, even in my most unruly moments. These three qualities, in fact, are also what has made running such a good teacher for me in my adult life. What Mr. Sloan did then for me as a teenager, running does for me now in middle age.

  1. Memorability – In recent years and like many men of my age and in my stage of life, my mind has become a little fuzzy. With the passing of the years, things tend to slip into the past and at times out of my consciousness. Running, however, never does. While I frequently forget what I am supposed to pick up at the grocery store, I virtually never forget how I felt on my morning run. And often, the memory of that run, whether good or bad, fast or slow, alone or in a group, sustains me through the rest of my days. I am not all that sure if the science backs this up, but running seems to have a certain indelible impact on my brain.
  2. Confidence – When I stop to think about how running makes me feel, I often realize that mostly it makes me self-assured. The simplicity of the running endeavor combined with its physical benefits give me a sense of inner peace that inspires confidence. Certainly, there are times when that positivity is tested through injury, tough workouts, or sub-par races, but inevitably, as the miles accrue and my body continues to adapt, my mind follows and the ability to see things through the lens of a glass-half-full increases.
  3. Accountability – Nothing teaches a lesson quite like a run. Whether on my daily six-mile loop from the doorstop or an epic eight-hour slog through the mountains, running always provides feedback that makes me accountable. Even if I intentionally strive to not pay attention to breathing, heart rate, the ache in my legs, running invariably sends me the signals it needs to in order to make me accountable. In so doing, running provides a foundation upon which I can face challenges in other aspects of my life.

Teaching, like running, is both an art and a science. And as I think about what running means to me and who I have become because of it, I take comfort in the clarity of purpose and soundness of mind that it gives me. And, like my beloved teacher Mr. Sloan, that which is memorable, inspires confidence, and espouses accountability cannot help but be inspiring.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Allagash Brewing Company Saison Farmhouse AleThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Allagash Brewing Company in Portland, Maine. Their delicious Saison Farmhouse Ale is a classic interpretation of traditional Belgian Golden Ale which carries with it a crisp fruity taste and a wonderfully spicy finish. This is a great beer from one of the East’s top breweries.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Who are your mentors from your past and in your present?
  • Why do you regard them as such and what wisdom have they imparted upon you?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.