As a lifelong runner who has competed in and coached countless races, I know one of the tenets of racing is to “run through the finish line.” It is a reminder to runners that, despite the pain and the fatigue and the promise of the finish line ending the suffering, a good or great performance can be ruined (or at least diminished) by cruising the last few meters into the finish line and a decent performance can be improved by pushing just a bit harder in the final stretch. Nearly every race includes at least one competitor coming from behind and passing another in the final few strides of the race as the leading runner backs off and the chasing runner digs deeper. Running “through the finish line” is an exhortation that the most meaningful accomplishments require effort throughout their entirety just as it is a recognition that the end of an effort is often among the most difficult and most important times.
I often think of the “through the finish line” running mantra at this time of year, as we are close enough to the winter break to anticipate the relaxing breaths to come and yet there are still many important moments needing focus. The clearest example is our eighth graders, who are finishing their first semester in each of their classes, as we will prepare and send their transcripts to their secondary schools soon. In addition, all but our youngest students are working towards culminating events that require their focus in these final days and weeks before the break. It may be as simple as unit tests or writing assignments in some classes or concluding major units, such as the fourth graders and much of their study of Egypt. Certainly, our music students will also finish off their fall studies with performances next week in the Winter Concerts in Morrow House (Thursday, December 21 at 7 p.m.) and Little School (Friday, December 22 at 10 a.m.).
The way our students approach these events will impact not only their experiences this semester but also their mindset about their future work. Perhaps the individual who pushes just a bit harder and finds even a little more success in these final weeks will use that experience as a launching pad for even more growth in the future. Similarly, maybe the student who eases off and has a poor performance or two will realize the need for pushing through the end and will do so the next time. In this way, the rhythm of the school year with all its work, its inspiration, its opportunities, and its challenges is itself a challenge and also an opportunity for growth and learning.
It is also great preparation for the demands that our students will face in the future, certainly in school and more importantly in their careers. There will be many finish lines in their futures, and the sooner they learn how best to pace themselves (as a coach, I would often define the best pace as the fastest you can run and still finish) and how to run hard all the way through the finish line. The satisfaction they will feel from a job well done will far outweigh the additional strain of the continued effort in the last few strides. I look forward to celebrating many great efforts with the students once they have crossed the various finish lines that they will experience in the next ten days.