Running, Teaching, Living without races

By Michelle Stavros (USA)


I have spent each of the past five summers training for a fall half marathon. Training for a race motivated me and kept me honest: there can be no excuses when training.  I have completed races all over and made them part of my vacations. Puerto Rico, Key West, Bethany, Delaware.  Running and training for races was a major part of my life as a runner.


Running doesn’t come naturally to me: if I want to run, I have to prepare. Preparedness is in my nature. As a high school English teacher survival is all about being prepared. My running partner Melissa and I signed up for an Atlantic City run scheduled for May 2020. This was to keep us on task and motivated throughout the winter.


January 2020 was an exciting time. My performing arts school moved into a state of the art, 8-million dollar facility located five miles from my home.  We had waited more than seven years for the new building, but it was worth it.  Melissa and I started finding new routes and discussed which half marathon we wanted to run in the fall.  Then came 13 March - a day I will never forget. All New Jerseyans’ lives were thrown into upheaval.  ‘Schools will be closed for two weeks’, they said. But two weeks was just the beginning.  After the first week of bumbling through remote teaching my core group of teacher friends and I realized this was not going to end anytime soon. The state was in lockdown.  Life as we knew it had gone… just like that. 


Teachers are control freaks, driven by structure and consistency - which no longer existed.  What about my Atlantic City run, would it happen? Should I bother training. At organized races I am not the fastest out there, but I never give up. Running has been a staple in my life for five years, getting me through all kinds of situations and sparking my mind and spirit.  Why then could I not find it in myself to run during those first two weeks?


Without a race to look forward to training seemed like a waste.  Like many others I was consumed with one overwhelming thought: how can we keep doing this until June? I realized that even before my role as teacher - I had to run. I had to run not to prepare for a race but to keep my sanity. I had to run to keep some semblance of normality in my life. Intellectually I knew this but emotionally I just couldn’t make myself go.


I didn’t plan to go out that morning but on Monday, 30 March at 6:30am I laced up my sneakers, grabbed Elvis, my 4-year old Maltese, and left the house.  It was eerie. The streets were empty; no cars passed me during my 30-minute run. Elvis and I loved every minute.  The running duo walked back into the house transformed. My perspective and demeanor had flipped: Those 30 minutes had changed my life. I was ready to engage my students, ready to get creative in my assignments, ready to live. I had to run to teach, I had to run to live.  I didn’t have to be training to run, I just had to run. 

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