President's Corner

Is It Time To Pick Up the Pace?


This past October, I was in Chicago to watch my daughter Andrea run her first marathon. Almost any marathoner will tell you that pace is the key to running a successful race. Knowing your time at the halfway point helps you decide whether to keep that pace, slow down or kick it up a notch. I witnessed first hand the role pace plays in reaching a goal.

Mark BielangMark T. Bielang

Elite runners have pacers who run alongside them to help keep them at their desired pace. These elite runners begin with the end in mind. They determine what they want as their final finish time and establish benchmarks along the way. Then, throughout the race, they assess and adjust their pace in relation to their goal. Other runners, such as Andrea, do the same, but with a support system that is far less sophisticated.

The winner of this year’s Chicago Marathon, Sammy Wanjiru, was out to set a new world record. He knew that at the midway point he needed to hit a time of 62 minutes — and he did. However, at some time during the second half of the race, his lone remaining pacer began to slow down. Sammy made the bold decision to sprint ahead of his pacer and two rivals and run alone in the lead.

That risky move, along with a couple of well-timed surges put him permanently in the lead but jeopardized his goal — the world record. With the race well in hand and realizing he could not break the world record, Sammy slowed his pace and cruised to the finish line waving to the crowd. Unknown to him, he eclipsed the Chicago Marathon record by just one second, which netted him a $100,000 bonus. Imagine if he would have abandoned his pace and started his victory cruise a few paces earlier.

As we near the midpoint in our school year, it’s a good time to check our pace, assess where we are now and adjust our pace, if necessary, so we can finish strong at the end of the school year. Here are some lessons to keep in mind:

•  Keeping pace requires skill development. Am I keeping up with my own professional development and the development of those who support my efforts?

•  Keeping pace requires specific goals. Are the goals I set realistic and will they stretch the organization and me?

•  Keeping pace requires concentration. Am I staying focused on my goals? Am I doing things that are distracting me from my goals?

•  Keeping pace requires help from others. Are the people around me aware of the goals? Are they pushing me or holding me back?

Our students trust us and rely on us to equip them with what they need to finish at their winning pace. Perhaps one of the best things we can do for the children we serve is to make sure we’re on pace so they are on pace to finish their year successfully.

Andrea, like most of the 48,000 other runners in the Chicago Marathon, will never set a world record. However, she may set new personal records for herself. Isn’t that what it’s all about for our students — reaching new heights, improving personal performance and achieving personal goals? Students need help from their peers and the adults in their lives to keep a winning pace. They need our help, guidance and direction, and especially our encouragement.

As you continue through the school year, keep an eye on your pace. It should be the pace that helps you meet your goals — although you may find an occasional sprint is in order to keep you going to the end.

Mark Bielang is AASA president for 2009-10. E-mail: