Making strides in education and on trails.
On an average day, James Tager goes from running the Flagler County School District to running the trails of Palm Coast. The superintendent is an avid runner, and with the simple change of his clothes and shoes, he frequents the trails around Palm Coast and Flagler Beach to stay active and clear his mind.
James Tager started running track and cross-country in high school in Ohio and never looked back. Now, at age 59, he’s completed two marathons and countless other races.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education at Flagler College and master’s degree in administration and supervision from Nova Southeastern. In May 2017, he was hired as the Flagler Schools Superintendent after spending 35 years in the Volusia County School District.
As he transitioned into higher administrative roles, his running hobby became even more important to him.
“Particularly in my job, you get very busy and your mind gets busy, and it’s a great kind of release — just kind of a way to forget about everything,” James Tager said. “So, I really enjoy that part of it, and I always have.”
He said he believes that he should be as visible as possible for students, faculty and staff in his role as superintendent. He’s ran in a number of Flagler Schools races since starting in the district, including two at Rymfire Elemetary, two at Wadsworth Elementary, one at Flagler Palm Coast High and one at Belle Terre Elementary.
After lacing up his sneakers, which he wears through about every six months, James Tager runs about four to five times a week, for a total of about 20-25 miles — unless he’s training for a marathon, in which case he runs about 40 miles a week. His pre-race routine is fairly simple: He eats pasta the night before and maybe a bagel in the morning if it’s a longer race. While he doesn’t listen to music during the pump-up songs played in the bigger city races he’s done, like the Savannah Marathon and Jacksonville Marathon.
“For me, it just totally shuts everything else down; you can think about your faith, you can think about your family,” he said. “It’s just, work is gone for an hour to two hours, whatever it is. I love my job, don’t get me wrong. I think if you don’t have a way to kind of get away from the hustle and bustle and everything that you do, you won’t last at your job that long. And this is going to be my 38th year. You have to have some kind of relief.”
His passion for running is so contagious that his wife of two years now caught the bug.
“His belief in running and health made me think that I could be the same,” Jodi Tager said. “So, he motivated me. We ran on the beach. I started off with a mile, then went to two miles … Everyone struggles in the beginning; you can’t always run a mile without stopping. You have to start somewhere, and, now, I can do a half-marathon.”
James Tager said that starting in small increments is the best way to get more comfortable being a runner.
“Once you convince yourself that you can do it, it’s kind of limitless; you can do whatever you want,” he said.
In Palm Coast, he enjoys the terrain on the Graham Swamp Loop, starting from the trailhead on Old Kings Road, and the Lehigh Trail, with its trailhead on Belle Terre Parkway. For Flagler Beach and Volusia County, he recommends running on the beach during low tide.
“This time of year, if we can find shade, it’s really good,” he said.
His last day in education will be June 30, 2020, when he’s set to retire at the end of his contract. While his 60th birthday is approaching in October, he’s not planning on stopping his strides anytime soon.
He said he’ll keep running, “as long as I’m allowed, as long as I can, as long as my health allows.”