Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Choice at the Track

Today’s run tells me a lot about me.  Why? 

Well, today is a Tuesday.  My most typical Tuesday workout is a track workout.  I have done this ever since my first marathon training group summer and fall when we had workouts at the a local college track every Tuesday.  There is nothing  magical about Tuesdays.  Just force of habit ever since then.

And for much of the time since my last formal marathon training group (fall 2011), I have run on the track at the a local high school in Baltimore within site of some of the buildings where I worked for years. 

This practice was put on hold for a while when a local company paid to have the football field resurfaced and built a fence around the combined football field and track.  In the time since, there has been a variety of off and on attempts to provide access to the track.  Usually, there is a city police officer who comes to open the gate for us so that we (and any local community members who care to join us) can run on the track.

Recently, the officer has been late a number of times.  I hear from other friends that he has missed a number of times.  Today, unfortunately, was one of those times. 

I first ran back to my car to put a piece of pie that a friend had brought in my car so I wouldn’t have to carry it if we ran the streets.  I am glad to have friends who find stress relief in baking.  The sweet potato pie made a very nice breakfast after the workout.

Then, when we felt pretty sure that the officer was not going to show, I was taking my windbreaker and hat back to the car.  I ran past two men with whom we sometimes cross paths on the track.  I told them the officer had not shown.  They said, “We just jump the fence.”

So after I put the clothes I did not need in my car, I jogged back to where I’d started and found everyone jumping the fence.  This presented an interesting issue for me.

In Sunday school, I teach kids to follow rules and respect the property of others.  No matter how much I may disagree with the city’s decision to limit access to the field and track, it is school property.

In my job, the registrar is one of my direct reports.  The registrar’s office was once referred to as the last line of defense against chaos.  Why?  Because it enforces rules.

At every step along the way in my job progression since taking the position last April, I have been encouraged to enforce and stick by rules.  Because any broken rule sets a precedent that will come back to haunt me and my office.

I also thought about how I represent the University.  I am someone who is considered a member of the senior leadership.  I was trying to imagine the conversation I would have if the officer showed up and started asking question.  My direct supervisor is the Dean.  I knew that later in the day I would have a meeting at which the University provost might be in attendance.  In either case, I could not imagine trying to explain why I was climbing over a fence at a place that was not my property.  I could not imagine it.

So, despite the pressure of my peers, I decided to do a tempo run alone on the city streets.  I ended up running 7 miles (6.6 at a 7:33 pace which is not really what I aim for in a tempo run but for my first time outside by myself in a while it was not bad) so that now I am up to 83 miles total in two weeks of the new year.  From where I left off yesterday, I would have passed through Mercersberg (a little town from which I knew a runner when I attended the 1985 Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences).  I would have also passed by the birth place of President James Buchanan.  And I’d still be on Pennsylvania’s route 16, now headed more or less north as the road twists and winds through the southern part of the state.

So, despite all my hemming and hawing about the lack of access to the track and my personal thought of being a “rebel” when it comes to not necessarily doing things by the book, I did not take the opportunity to run on it when others I knew did.  I just stuck with my “law and order” and follow the rules approach to life.  I worried about others’ impressions of me rather than just about my own needs.  Not living on the edge.  Not doing anything out of the ordinary.  Just behaving.  Simply—being a grown up who realizes what risk there is to doing things wrong and who realizes the consequences.  Whose goal is to set an example.  Who could not only not face my boss but also not face my students.  I adjusted what I did.  I am flexible.  I just go with the flow. 

Any surprises in all this?  Not really. 

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