Matt Potter 12:30 p.m., Dec. 9
Tales of Bullying and the 1st Annual Ignite What’s Right 5k
“But then around section 5, his leg began to loosen, his lungs to unclench. Better thoughts flowed through his brain. He picked up the pace.” Chad Harbach, “The Art of Fielding”
Sunday, October 23rd 2011 was the 1st annual Ignite What’s Right 5k at Rohr Park in Bonita. The event's mission is to fight against bullying and to also promote fitness. I arrived at the event a little early and right away I noticed a different atmosphere than other 5k’s. This one was more family-oriented. Usually I survey the runners to decide which one I will pace myself with but then I realized these were parents with their sons and daughters. I saw a team wearing Team Hueso running shirts so I decided to pace myself with them since I am sure assemblymember, Ben Hueso, promotes staff fitness.
The event was thrown in partnership with Difference Makers International and the Turning Hearts Center. The event focused on helping students overcome bullying and also guiding parents and teachers tackle the issue. Five minutes before the start a representative made a speech on how the Chula Vista School district was going to tackle the bullying problem and help set an example for the nation to follow. She then made us all give the “thumbs up” sign and told us we’re doing this for a good cause and we all cheered for ourselves.
Then the run began and all the kids and even some adults took off like those high-pressurized water rockets you used as a kid. Shooting out of the starting gate with a roar of laughter. Meanwhile, I maintained a steady gait. A few steps in front of me I could see some break out of the pack while others who took off quickly, were now slowing down realizing they had three more miles to go.
Life is competitive. We all have a competitive nature, some more than others. We compete at work, school, against our friends, spouses, etc. Some of you may even read this post and think, “I could write better.” It’s only natural to compete.
5k’s are normally competitive and you strive to get first place or beat your personal best time or make sure that stranger next to you will not pass you by; even if it means passing out because you probably pushed yourself too far.
My main goal when running a 5k is to never stop, so I knew I would eventually pass up some people because they miscalculated their pace.
Why was I preoccupied with whom I was in front of or passing or being passed up by? Isn’t this the same type of flawed thinking a bully’s mind might employ?
I’m stronger, I’m faster, I’m smarter.
It’s not about who’s the fastest. It’s about running for a cause and doing what is right.
I start to get a small cramp around the end of mile one and as we made the turn at the east side of the golf course, I grimaced slightly but I eased up the pace and felt fine after a few minutes.
Off in the distance, I saw a volunteer who started clapping for the runners as they passed. I was getting my second wind around the golf club house when the girl started to clap for me and said, “Let’s go.” Her words of encouragement were enough for me to pick up the pace again.
As I passed the library, two girls were giving out water. I grabbed one but did not stop to drink, as I was afraid the muscle cramps would come back.
As a frequent runner of this course, I always contemplate stopping around the time I reach the fast food establishment on the corner, about 2.5 miles into the run. The smell of breakfast sandwiches is not as pleasant when in the midst of a run.
As I approach the wooden pedestrian footbridge, there was another volunteer standing who started to clap as I ran towards him. It’s at this point when it hit me. Life is like running and the people on the sidelines are my peers. They could very easily be shouting obscenities, mocking my pathetic pace or telling me my face looks funny when I am out of breath; you know all the things bullies would say. Instead they shouted encouragement like friends, family, teachers and good-natured human beings are supposed to do.
Life is hard as it is. You don’t need bullying to complicate matters further. The same way their encouragement helped me keep focused and run a little harder is the same way life should be, without bullying.
In the 5th grade I was bullied and I hate to admit it, but I also bullied. I did not bully with physical violence because I was a late bloomer and small for my age, but used the mental form of bullying. For example, I used alliteration to create variations of the person’s name and insinuate not so flattering things about them. To even further complicate the process and add to the degree of bullying, I also created songs using this newly established name. The bullying I participated in was mocking a kid in our class for his appearance. Like all of us, he grew out of his awkward phase. But when I met him recently at a function, I tried to be cordial with him but he was cold and distant and I could tell he was still harboring those memories.
As a 5th grader, I almost got beat up by a band of hooligan grade school kids from a neighboring school. My friend Ernesto who was standing next to me shouted something about their spiky hair and the kids thought I was the one taunting them. Ernesto ran, but I was accosted and surrounded by them. There was no talking my way out of it and just as I was about to concede defeat and let them hit me with a barrage of kicks and fists, my friend Frank came out of nowhere, he stepped right up to the leader and said, “Don’t mess with my friend.” Frank also had spiky hair and was larger than the average 5th grader. They looked up at him and said, “Oh hey. Nice hair” and they walked away.
I was feeling hurt for the past bullying I’d done as a child but as I approached the final part of the track through the picnic areas, I noticed the signs from the Turning Hearts Center that said, “Look up. Your best days are still ahead of you.” It made me realize it’s never to late to set a good example. I made mistakes and it’s up to me to teach my daughter the lessons I learned regarding bullying.
I ran the 5k because my daughter will one day make the choice if she is going to do what is right and avoid bullying others. Also as a parent, I want to make sure schools have a strategy to deter bullying. Plus, it’s a good habit to run before you enjoy a well-deserved lazy Sunday.
After I finished, I stayed awhile to cheer the individuals who were still running towards the finish line. At the Ignite What’s Right 5k there was no bullying, unless you count the bullying I gave my body to be healthy.