My brother made a visit to my mother’s house this Thanksgiving. And he and I had some conversations regarding mutual interests and other such material. I doubt anyone else was all that interested in what we were discussing: running, cycling, students, and suchlike. For some reason, people are not interested in that sort of stuff.
But my brother (born 76 months after me) and I share a lot of personal experiences and stuff.
He and I were both distance runners in High School.
— I honestly don’t know his times but he was one of the top Cross Country runners on the team before his shin splints.
— I ran the 5k Cross Country courses in 17 flat. In track, I ran 2:03 800, 4:40 1600, 10:20 3200, and was part of the 4X800 relay (all in the same meet).
He and I both spent big money on bicycles. (“You paid over $1k and it didn’t even have a motor?”)
— He got a half-scholarship to college for mountain-biking and was involved in mountain-bike races aired on ESPN2.
— I told him years ago about my 3-hour, 52-mile circuit and he asked if I had a picnic lunch in the middle of my circuit.
He and I both have experience as educators.
— He is a tenured professor of English, teaching first-year composition to “English as Second Language (ESL)” students.
— I was a math education major in college. I spent time teaching 5th grade students and 7th grade students during my college course work. I spent 20+ hours a week tutoring high school and college students in their math courses while a student in college. I spent 3 years home-schooling my daughter 4 grades.
There are other similarities, but those are pertinent here.
He said he went out running after he had his knee surgery. “You know that pain you feel that you have to fight through and that pain you feel that says ‘this was a bad idea’? Well, this was a bad idea. So I did it again and decided this is a bad idea after the second time.” That’s him. Don’t take the body’s first screaming NO for an answer but listen to the second screaming NO.
But he is more a cyclist than a runner. (Running stoves up your knees something fierce, especially if you have his and my trait of a super-long gait.) And he went on to talk about his recent experience cycling.
He mentioned he and I both have another commonality: to overdo things (or take them to extremes). He talked about how he hadn’t been out cycling for a couple months so, naturally, he decided to take a 40-mile trip. Now, when you’re training, you have various different plans for the day. One of those that all top athletes use is what I call “count the leaves on the trees” day, where you just go out and take it very easy, so you have time to take in every aspect of the scenery as you go by. Absolutely nothing hard at all about it. Well, he described his 40-mile circuit as one of those days.
He didn’t work hard at all during his 40-mile circuit, but he said at 75 minutes into his circuit he hit a brick wall. His body decided it was quitting time, it didn’t matter that he wasn’t home yet. And he was still a few miles short of home. Once he got home, he was toast. And the frustrating part was that he didn’t push himself on the circuit, instead taking it easy, and he still was toast.
I recounted my running experience. 5 years ago, I went out for a run for the first (and last) time in many years. Understand, I never in my life went out for a jog, always for a run (and there is a huge difference there). I reminded him of my 17-flat 5k in HS and then reported that I had to take a “walking break” during my 1-mile run, which took a total time of 15 minutes. It was grotesque and embarrassing.
He had some very interesting insight. Since I had previously been a quality distance runner, I could more readily approach that sort of quality again. My body would “remember” my past. “Oh, this is where I need to conserve energy, I remember this. Oh, this is something I can do. Nothing new here.” I just need to get back into it and it’ll come back to me. And much, much faster than for someone who has never had my experience.
He also recounted, in a general way, his experience teaching first-year composition in college. He said there were so many things wrong with papers that he had to ignore a lot of it and focus in on the 5 most important issues in the papers. “How can I make them write better without crushing them (or something to that effect).” I said something about how people need to use a dictionary and he had a retort I didn’t expect. He said he thought part of his students’ (He teaches first-year ESL students, remember.) problem was an over-reliance on the dictionary.
I was definitely surprised by this statement. But he explained his statement. Last year, he had a Japanese student who was very proficient in spoken English. That student’s paper had multiple nested sentences within multiple nested sentences of sentences. And those sentences used very large words. And my brother was thinking “I should know what this person is trying to say but I can’t make heads or tails of this.” (He said, as an aside, that his students this year are Chinese and isn’t it interesting first year students from Communist China are buying top-of-the-line Mercedes-Benz cars for their 4-year US University time?) That wasn’t quite what I expected, but it’s understandable. As he said, people try to sound more intelligent when they write than they do when they just talk. And, as he sees it, that is a pronounced problem with ESL students. That strong desire to show a higher ability (in this case, in a foreign language) than possessed.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable discussion.
But, thinking back on it, I definitely brought a few things home. And one thing I definitely want to point out (which was not his intent at all) is that there is a place where you are judged by your ability and not your “degree of tanness”. And that is in the athletic arena.
I don’t care what your background is. Once you get into your sphere of athletics, you will be dependent on your ability and not a hand-up for your success or failure. It’s all on you. There is no head-start for people of the “wrong race” and there is no lowered standard for people of the “wrong race” in athletics. There’s only your ability and training vs their ability and training. And that’s how it should be in every aspect of everyone’s life.