In graduate school I developed patellar tendonitis, cutting short my running life. As a result not many people know that I was an avid runner starting in grade school. I spent three years of high school running cross country, with the last year off only because I was in Germany. Cross country is a fall sport meaning that it began in August when school started. Unfortunately, August in southern Arizona is a hot month, with temperatures in the middle of the afternoon (when practice started) hovering around 110 F (43 C). My non-running friends believed, perhaps correctly, that I was a special kind of crazy to want to run 6 or more miles (10 or more km) in that kind of heat. And, no, I didn’t love every minute of the 6+ miles in the 110 F heat. It was especially difficult when the last part of the course would be hilly so that you were working the hardest when you were the most tired. But nothing made me feel happy the way running did. When you completed that course you not only felt great about having done the mileage but also about having conquered the mental aspects of pushing through the hard parts to reach the end.
The start of the spring quarter at DePaul always reminds me of my time as a cross-country runner. We’ve just completed 11 weeks of teaching, and this year through some absolutely miserable weather, with only one week off. And yet we face another 11 weeks of teaching before we’re done with the academic year. Yes, it’s likely that the weather will improve before the end of the quarter, but that only makes it worse since the last thing any of us will want to be doing is hanging out inside discussing programming in Python. We’re all tired. But we also know that the hardest part of the year is ahead of us. There is simply nothing that gets you through this time except mental toughness. And it’s always this time of year that I’m grateful I spent so many years of my teens running long distances in scorching hot weather, since the instincts that built serve me well.