December 14

Endurance in Education: Set your own pace and you will succeed

On my first visit to Blackheath High School, someone casually commented that the Marathon goes past the school. Unfortunately, these sorts of comments tend to play on my mind, The Marathon! I have never run further than a couple of miles in my life; maybe I could! (could I)? When I see others who run regularly, I realise how very far I would be from even reaching the start line. Sadly it is a completely unrealistic goal for me.

I have completed endurance events in cycling, though. My first 100-mile event was significant for me, although to succeed I had to make it just another increase in a long succession of stretching challenges. The feeling of success at each small stage along that process was the motivation I needed to keep going.

I learned a lot about digging deep and keeping going during the final ten miles, but the first few miles were very important to get right. As I left the Olympic Park, others all around raced ahead, full of adrenaline and a sense of freedom on traffic-free roads; I told myself it was going to be a long day and set out at a pace I knew I could sustain for the long hours ahead. I set my own pace; I made it my own race.

Anyone who has completed an individual sporting challenge knows that setting a personal goal is vital to success. My goal was just to complete my longest event yet – not to compare my time with others on the leader board (which was good because I was not fast at all).

So why do we so often forget this in an educational environment? Is it just a desire for social acceptance that makes students want to compare themselves to the class average?

Students should compare their performance against their own goals and past performance. In sporting terms, they should look for personal bests. Others will rush ahead and some will fall behind, but education is a very long endurance event. To get through school happily and successfully, a student will need to have the right personal goals and then be able to keep moving forward towards them.

So what about that Marathon: did you notice I fell into the same trap? I probably could run a marathon one day, if I stopped looking around at those who are already achieving what I want. The better questions for me are these: is it the right goal – do I really want it?  If so, am I prepared to find out how to get from where I am to where I want to be and then take the long personal path to get there?

I suspect that a Marathon is not the right goal for me, and I am content to live without that particular achievement. But if we all get our goals right, everyone can feel the sense of success we all deserve.

Also In the News