from mile to marathon

The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

what I want

I had not yet run 4 miles when I heard Bill Strickland as the keynote speaker at the close of a business conference in St. Louis. He talked about this school and vocational training center he established in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the curriculum evolves around art, not to produce artists, but in order to entice disenfranchised kids, welfare mothers, and out-of-work steel workers to educate themselves (with a staggering success rate). He talked about how this country is going downhill because we don’t pay attention to the education of our children, while the children are the future. Not exactly in these words, but that was the gist of it, and it stirred up the whole audience, because we are familiar with the problem. And in the most resourceful country of the world the problem persists to a shameful extent.

People lined up afterwards to express their elation or just shake his hand. I did too, and once in front of him I did not know what to say. He had already heard it all before, how we are moved, and what a great job he is doing, and how the world needs people like him, who DO something. Then something clicked into place and I blurted out: “I am going to run the marathon for one of your schools.”

I was going to run the marathon anyhow, or I flirted with the thought, but in that moment I saw a reason to run it and it all made sense. The two disparate endeavors became connected in my mind right there and then. All the hypothetical marathons I will ever be able to run won’t raise enough money for even scratching the surface of such magnitude of a project. But, when I run, in my mind I run for a Bill Strickland school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Perhaps I am just trying to persuade myself or him or the world that I have perseverance, as I believed when I was young.

It is not enough to lament about education. We have to DO something. Once you read this, don’t turn away, don’t forget about it. Runners of wherever, runners of New Mexico, parents or New Mexico, come back here from time to time and find out where I am on this, and how you can help. I will need you.

One day before I went to the exercise room for the first time and randomly pushed the buttons of the treadmill, I had gone to a Southwest Writers meeting ( about blogging, and although I never saw myself blog before (the exhibitionism and diligence required scared me to no end), now I saw the three strands interconnected: running, blogging, and a Bill Strickland school in Albuquerque. That's what I want.


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