>The academic bloggers out there remember Ivan Tribble, the pseudonymous scribe of two essays in the Chronicle of Higher Education Careers section, back in aught-five, who argued in the first that “Bloggers Need Not Apply” for tenure-track jobs in academe, and in the second that the bloggers who responded critically to his article were all just shooting the messenger (“They Shoot Messengers, Don’t They?”). But as I argued back then (god, that seems ages ago), it seemed that the trouble with Tribble wasn’t only that he had a thing against bloggers specifically, but that he also didn’t like or didn’t want to know about academics who — the horror! — found time to do things other than the teaching, research, and service for which they were being hired. So what does this have to do with my recent run in the Boston Marathon? This juicy passage from Tribble’s second article is where the connection lies:
A number of respondents worried they could be mistaken [in a Google search] for an unhirable doppelganger on the Web. I can’t speak for every committee, but ours had no trouble distinguishing our candidates from the semi-pro hockey players, quilt-store owners, marathon runners, and grade schoolers that Google turned up.
Uh, hello? Why on earth would you assume marathon runners and academics are mutually exclusive categories? Or that a marathoning academic was unhirable? Witness not only me but ProfGrrrrl (link goes to her training blog). (And as for semi-pro hockey players, cf. Michael Berube.)
All of which brings me back to my experience running Boston and the responses of my colleagues, including those who will be voting on my tenure. All my colleagues know I run marathons, and as far as I can tell they don’t have a problem with this. Witness their responses to my Boston experience (which, by the way, required training almost entirely during the school year):
- Awesome Supportive Chair said, “You’re my hero!” and asked for pictures for the department newsletter.
- One senior colleague asked if I had run a local marathon that was close to Boston’s date, and when I said no, because I ran Boston instead, he said, “Wow! Congratulations! That’s impressive!”
- Fellow junior colleague Milton looked me up on the official marathon site during the race, tracked my performance, and sent me a congratulatory note — all without my knowing until I got home. (I don’t know why, but I thought that was really sweet.)
- Senior Rhet/Comp scholar e-mailed me after hearing the weather report that day and sent her sympathy (she runs and does triathalons).
- Another senior colleague routinely asked how my training was going, and his spouse saw me in the local park in the midst of one of my 20-mile runs and cheered me on. I told her I was thinking of calling it quits at 15 because I was aching, but she rallied my spirits and I completed the 20.
I could go on. But the point is, every department has a different atmosphere, and one of the ways I was wooed to this one was with the promise (by the senior colleague in the last bullet point) that people have lives here. And frankly, I think that’s a good thing not only for faculty retention, but for the students, too. We can then model for them full, well-rounded, and healthy (physically or mentally) lives. (Besides, when my students know that I ran the Boston and graded their papers in the same weekend, there’s less whining about deadlines and hard work. 🙂 Te-hee!)
Of course, if I were doing poorly in publishing or meeting teaching and service expectations, my marathon running might then be a point against me. I think then my colleagues would have every right to be worried that I’m unnecessarily distracted and would be justified in saying in my annual reviews that I’m not meeting job expectations. But since I am meeting those expectations (at least at my university — I don’t know that I could do this at an R1) what I do with my free time is up to me.
That said, it was really hard fitting in even the most basic easy-level, three-day-a-week training this semester. And the training is starting to be a burden rather than something fun. I don’t know if marathons are in my future or not. I may just run for fun and fitness for awhile and then maybe think about half-marathons and shorter races for the time being. The distance of the race doesn’t scare me — I’d still like to learn how to and train to keep my pace in those last four miles — but fitting in those really long runs is hard. They just eat up so much of my weekend.
OK, future posts will detail the race itself, I promise. But I wanted to start with something that was more closely related to the character of this ‘academic life’ blog.