I’ve been competing for over 20 years now. Since I was just a tike in 4th grade, I’ve come to love the sport of running. Since then, it’s been an unending ride of excitement, joy, fear, pain, wins, losses, and everything in between.
Over the past year, I’ve been losing the itch to compete at my best, and even more so to train in a way that would be conducive to serving that function. A specific line from Garth Brooks’ Much Too Young seemed to ring truer each day that I trained and competed: “This ol’ highways getting longer, Seems there’s no end in sight”. Garth, if you’re reading this, my wife and I are huge fans. But I digress. It felt as though no matter how I performed for better or worse, I couldn’t quite find the right performance to finish on. Time would be my greatest enemy when it came to my running. It’s somewhat romantic that an elite runner’s main goal is to shave off as much time as possible, while our performance window is extremely limited by time itself.
Along with struggling with a slight injury, which was nothing new, my mind and heart no longer longed to sacrifice the time it took to train at the level needed to perform at such a high level. That’s why in October I decided to hang up the racers and retire from competitive running. It has served me well over these 2 decades, and I’d be remised if I didn’t give it the proper acknowledgement as to the shaping of myself in my career and who I’ve become today, and who I hope to become in looking ahead.
It’s always been strong underlying theme in just about all of my writing. It’s mostly present because it’s the easiest way for me to translate my running. But also, I feel there are many battles to be fought and won that follow the same format of ups and downs, wins and defeats. A repeating cycle, not knowing how the current challenge at hand may turn out.
There’s always been a certain subtlety that comes with the territory of competitive running. It’s given me a voice to connect with others who I wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to meet. For that I’m truly grateful. Many of those I’ve met have done an excellent job of using their platform to reach larger audiences to share their own personal message. I don’t believe I used my own platform to its fullest capacity, and there are many things along the way that I could have improved. But I don’t intend to focus on my shortcomings, as there is far more good that has come from my career than any measurable failures.
Countless small subtleties have shaped me in ways that will be with me well beyond my athletic career. I’ve decided to highlight some aspects of the sports that come to mind based on my own experience. Many of these may overlap with numerous other individuals who I’ve been fortunate enough to share my career with, and others may be solely reflected by myself. Either way, they have shaped me in a way that I’m both proud of and even prouder to have shared with many throughout the years.
It’s the cool foggy mornings, meeting up with my teammates on an early Saturday practice, when the rest of the world is sleeping in. Or better yet, having finished a 20 mile long run before 7:00AM on more occasions than I can count.
It’s my father driving me to weight sessions and early morning runs at 5:00AM and running with my dog while I worked out. Looking back, it’s now knowing that any fitness goals he has, is in some small part because of me, bettering himself for the sake of his family.
It’s finding my voice at my cross-country banquet my senior year of high school, when I gave a speech illustrating my gratitude for the coaches, family, and friends that provided the foundation for who I am and where I’m going. Though there was much more finer tuning to do, the mold had been cast.
It’s coming in the home stretch at the NCAA Championships, with my coach bending at the knees, ecstatically cheering for me, confirming that I’ve accomplished my biggest collegiate goal. Following it up with breaking down in tears when I see my dad outside the finish area. The vivid memory of it still brings tears to my eyes to this day.
It’s choking back tears as I leave my college alma mater, as I head out to relocate 2,500 miles away and chase my dream. Later, it’s the gratitude I feel from that same night, now knowing that I gave special attention to a close friend that I will never see again: providing her with a hug and a friendly kiss on her baldhead, as I unknowingly said our last good bye.
It’s making my way back home to see that same friend one last time, but only getting the solace of being able to pay my respects. The sorrow of losing a friend being dwarfed by the tremendous gratitude I have for even knowing such a beautiful soul.
It’s meeting and creating strong friendships with numerous strong, independent female athletes and coaches. Certainly there are many men in the field as well, but the women deserve a special highlight for a number of reasons, some of which resemble the same characteristics that I see in my mother. The same characteristics my parents raised me to cherish and respect. Many characteristics that I found in my wife, as our relationship grew and continues to grow.
It’s the strange sibling bond that my brother and I found in my late college years, a quirky and undeniably annoying relationship to all outside individuals, who may have witnessed our banter, anywhere between the dining commons, the track, and the training room. We even (willingly) shared a room during my final year of college. A scenario that had never played out well in the many years we shared a room when we were younger. There wasn’t even a need for a physical or imaginary line to be drawn, creating “your side” and “my side.”
It’s the simple gratitude of each other’s presence. I would say roughly 100% of the runs I’ve been on with anyone have finished with a simple “Thanks for the run.” Simple in gratitude, but so much greater in significance. Running can be a solitary sport. And for many, that provides a level of bliss that many cannot even fathom. But on the other hand, it can become daunting if given too much solitude. So having a friend trek out with you at 5:15 AM on any occasion can provide just the right kick in the pants to help you get out the door on time. So the phrase “thanks for the run,” doesn’t do it justice. Teammates, friends and family have been godsends when I lacked the motivation to follow through on my tasks for the day. Hell, my wife biked with me on one of my long runs when we first started dating. She was unfortunately introduced to a runner’s best friend in their most desperate time of need: heavy foliage. And she still married me. Back to my point. Being able to rely on someone to not only help you with your tasks, but knowing that you’d be willing to do the same, provides runners with their greatest asset: community. And even beyond that, we don’t always provide the proper appreciation towards others’ presence, but simply thanking someone for showing up and being there goes miles. It’s something we’re not always great at, and I hope I can continue in my own life to show my appreciation for others as much as possible.
All of this and much more has shaped me in ways I can’t even imagine. These experiences have led me to reach my best as an athlete, and even more so as an individual. Both have their shortcomings, and there’s plenty of work still to put in. We never truly reach our best, but we can only continue to strive for greater things and find ways to improve ourselves, whether it’s sports, music, academics, or any other countless trades. I’m proud to have done what I have on and off the track, but it’s time for me to focus my efforts elsewhere.
Luckily, many of the traits I learned over my years of training are transferable. I plan on utilizing my passion in my job, as I help grow the small company to unimaginable heights, fulfilling company goals and principles that I truly believe in. I will continue to dedicate myself to my family and friends, wholeheartedly and without reservation, so that I may continue to be relied upon wherever I am needed. I hope to continue to hone in on my strengths, in every aspect of life, while being able to work on weaknesses so that I may continue to grow as an individual. I will pride myself on the family my wife and I will raise, and hope to exemplify all these traits and more to our future children.
All of it has made me who I am. All of it will continue to guide and shape me. All of it will make me that much greater of an individual: as a man, a friend, a son, a brother, a husband, and a soon to be father.
As I mentioned earlier, there are shortfalls. And I can guarantee you 100% that there will be plenty more to come. I don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle together just yet, but I have the greatest foundation that anyone could ask for, and for that I am blessed. So I look forward to piecing this puzzle we know as life, together, little by little. There’s much more to come, and I look forward to every little detail. I hope to see you along the way, and share the experience with you. And to all who have been there throughout my career, thank you for the run.