• Teacher's Running Streak
    Still Going Strong

    Posted by Josh Flory on 10/1/2018
    South-Doyle Middle School teacher Stephen Wilkinson stands in front of a markerboard showing his running streak on September 14, 2018.
    South-Doyle Middle School teacher Stephen Wilkinson stands in front of a markerboard with a tally of his running streak, on September 14, 2018.

    Stephen Wilkinson has an ordinary hobby, but the 8th-grade ELA teacher at South-Doyle Middle School has pursued it with extraordinary tenacity.

    Wilkinson is a runner, and has logged at least one mile a day since August 3, 2015, a total of more than 1,150 consecutive days.

    To keep the streak alive, he’s pushed through dizzy spells, torrential downpours and single-digit temperatures that left icicles in his beard. At one point, he completed the 31-mile Lake Hodges ultramarathon -- and then ran two miles the next day.

    Wilkinson keeps a running tally on the markerboard in his classroom, and his persistence exemplifies a mantra he shares with his students -- he tells them the word “can’t” actually means “Currently Am Not Trying.”

    “We always say we can’t do things,” he added. “You can if you really want to.”

    Born and raised in Oregon, Wilkinson did a stint in the Navy on board the USS Copeland, then worked in retail before deciding to become a teacher. His initial plan was to teach math, but the concept of imaginary space convinced him he should switch to English.

    He got a degree from San Diego State University and worked for a decade in the San Diego Unified School District. When he and his wife decided to leave California, they initially settled in the Nashville area, but quickly grew tired of the traffic and were drawn to the outdoor activities of East Tennessee. He started at South-Doyle this fall, and said it’s been a breath of fresh air.

    Wilkinson was a track athlete and wrestler in high school, and has tried to stay active throughout his life. While living in California, he and some friends signed up for a fun run, which led to a marathon just a few months later and eventually to mud races and other events.

    He started his first run streak in February of 2015, but only made it about a month before it fizzled. He tried again that August, with the first run in the streak coming after he dropped his kids off at VBS.

    He waited about a month to tell his wife, and another month before posting something on Facebook, but so far the streak has held up. Asked about the hardest day, Wilkinson recalled waking up one morning with severe dizziness which required him to call in sick.

    He spent most of the day in bed, but decided to try a run that afternoon when his son got home from school: “I made him get on his bike and ride with me as I did a mile through the neighborhood.”

    In the classroom Wilkinson keeps the streak low-key, but said students ask questions when a milestone approaches.

    And even if they don’t ask, he occasionally gets a reminder that they’re paying attention. During one open house, a parent mentioned that her daughter was interested in cross-country and talks about the running streak -- even though she had never mentioned it to him.

    “You don’t know who’s really watching sometimes, or who’s paying attention,” he said.

    Does your child's teacher have an interesting talent, hobby or spare-time pursuit? Send an email to joshua.flory@knoxschools.org, and they might be featured in our next installment of KCS Enthusiast.