Inspiration and Reflection from Our Own Long-Distance Runner
As I look forward to running with BFS community members in the Sprinting for Scholars 5K in Prospect Park on May 22, I would like to share six lessons that I have learned from finishing 18 Marine Corps Marathons since 1995. In particular, I want to examine how those lessons relate to the 9-year marathon at Brooklyn Friends that I started on July 1, 2010 and which will reach its finish line on June 30, 2019.
Lesson One: The need to commit to continuous improvement–knowing that no matter how much one prepares, there is always more to learn about successful preparation and execution.
BFS has achieved many of the ambitious goals set by the 2008 Strategic Plan over the past nine years. These achievements have established a platform upon which BFS must continuously improve its implementation of commitments to student learning and living consistent with the highest expectations of students themselves, their families, teachers, and community. Doing so will enable the continued realization of Quaker values that is so often illustrated by the spontaneous generosity of spirit, wisdom, friendship, and commitment to social justice demonstrated by so many BFS students.
Lesson Two: Finding joy in the comradeship and collegiality of being part of a group striving to achieve a common goal.
As I was beginning high school in 1963, a British movie called The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner was becoming popular. It was an interesting and provocative film, but my marathon experiences more than 30 years later proved that instead of loneliness, the experience of runners well back in the pack, like me, manifested a solidarity and collective spirit that made us brothers and sisters in the hours we spent together. The fact that so many Brooklyn Friends students are indeed real friends with each other provides a basis for joyful community that is remembered lovingly in the decades that follow graduation from BFS.
Lesson Three: Never taking for granted the kindness of strangers or the need to reciprocate their kindness.
The supportive marathon crowds, and particularly the dedicated, enthusiastic, and friendly Marine Corps officers and enlisted men and women who are with us runners on every part of the course, are exceptionally kind to all of us–even when they occasionally employ their unique motivational tactics to keep us moving through the race’s most challenging sections. Similarly, spontaneous, often unexpected kindness is frequently experienced by BFS community members in their daily interactions. As alumni look back, such random reciprocated acts of kindness are often recalled as some of their fondest memories.
Lesson Four: Always knowing that following through to the finish is the ultimate, most painful, and most satisfying challenge.
For almost any athletic endeavor, the importance of following-through once a shot is taken or a move is made is a key component of achieving success while both maintaining balance and retaining the capacity to respond to the next move. For every action, there is a reaction; and controlling over-reaction to achieve the ultimate goal is difficult for all of us. The support of teachers, parents, role-models and, probably most importantly, friends has often proved a crucial factor in helping our BFS students to follow-through in their efforts to bring their extraordinarily ambitious projects to superb completion
Lesson Five: Realizing that resilience in the face of adversity and unanticipated difficulty is never easy but is often the prerequisite to achieving the goal.
For most of the marathoners with whom I run, finishing is winning. We might strive for a better time, but the medal we receive from a Marine Corps officer at the end of our 26.2 mile adventure marks a successful finish. We are living with an expectation of immediate gratification and instantaneous social media reaction, (unfortunately often anonymously critical) which shapes the lives of many adolescents, and adults as well. It has been truly heartening each year to see the resilience, joyfulness, and positive spirit manifested by BFS students as each academic year proceeds and concludes.
Lesson Six: Enjoying the reality that the end of one race is only an invitation to start training for the next one.
The combination of personal and collective pleasure achieved by finishing a project, a job, or even a career is most meaningfully manifest in the desire to continue growing, to welcome the coming challenges with hope, joyfulness, and a commitment to service to others. As our students move through BFS and onward to higher education, they model for all of us the importance of continuous engagement with life’s challenges and the search for ways to amplify our inner light that never truly ends.
On May 22, 2019 the BFS community will gather in Prospect Park for our first annual 5K Run/Walk. Proceeds from this event will support the newly established Larry Weiss Endowed Fund for Merit Scholarship. The BFS Merit Scholarship program provides substantial financial support to up to 12 Upper School students each year.