I am delighted to share another story today from another good friend of mine. You know this one though…..well, you know of her! Sarah Crouch is my friend who came to stay with me a few months ago. I talked about how much fun we had, and I didnt want her to leave. She always knows what to say to make me smile, and she is so good with her words (as you will read here).
Sarah is also a Runners Connect coach, so if you are considering a running coach……hint hint! You will not regret it, she has MANY happy runners (of all ages and levels) under her wing right now. You can have a 2 week free trial too if you click here.
A 13-time Division II All-American at Western Washington University.
The world is full of stories. Everyone has one. You have one, I have one, and the teenagers who rev their engines up and down my street at midnight have one, though I’m not sure I want to hear it.
People in general and runners in particular love to share their stories. Somewhere in the world today, there is a pre-race dinner and one runner is asking another how they began running. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been asked how I started running. It’s a great story, but this is not that story. This story is about the moment that I became more than a runner.
My fate today is tied to a brief moment a decade ago that planted a seed I’ve been watering ever since. I watched this seed bud and blossom and grow from a sapling into a mature tree. There have been times that the leaves have colored and fallen but though the tree looked dead, the sap still ran slowly and steadily, deep inside.
Every year, the best forty high school runners in Washington state race the best forty runners in Oregon at the tail end of the cross-country season. Dubbed the “Border clash”, this race tours the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon and is a spectacle with a cannon in lieu of a starter’s pistol, a narrow, twisting course that runs between two rows of drummers, pounding rhythmically on round base drums and a raucous finish line crowd.
During my sophomore year of high school, I managed to squeak into the border clash race as an alternate because enough of the girls that had finished ahead of me at State decided not to go. That year, the guest speaker after the pre-race dinner was Olympian Shalane Flanagan. Shalane stood bright on the stage, and I sat dark in the back, leaning forward in my chair, hanging on every word that she said.
Shalane didn’t mince words and I liked that. “Sure”, she said, “The odds are against you”. She looked out at the group of us, 160 of the finest young runners in the Northwest and told us that the odds were that none of us, not one, would become a professional runner. Many would simply not improve enough, most would quit, and others would be sidelined by injuries and distractions and life. But maybe, maybe, one of us had what it took. Maybe one of us was willing to push hard enough, to give enough of ourselves to make it happen.
In the darkness of that room, in the openness of my own childish heart, I decided that it was going to be me. If hard work was what it took to become a professional runner than I was going to run myself into the ground in pursuit of it.
So sure, the next morning I woke up and won the race by a mile and have been breaking records ever since.
The next morning, in a race of 80 people, I finished 72nd.
But the seed was there. I don’t have a Cinderella story. Nothing happened overnight. Over time, I took tiny steps forward that added together after a number of years to open the door to professional running.
I love making a living on my legs. I love the feeling of breaking the tape and the moments I share with young runners who want to be where I’m at now. I have the best job in the world and the worst job in the world. The only time I’ve ever finished last in a race was as a professional runner and let me tell you, the worst sound in the world is the sound of pity clapping as you finish dead last. I’ve lost far more often than I’ve won, but the point is that I’ve stuck to it.
There is something I see in my generation that saddens me. Young people don’t put roots into anything. If we aren’t immediately rewarded in a pursuit we simply shift our focus elsewhere. I don’t think that’s right. The best rewards are those that have been fought for over long stretches of patience and diligence and trial.
Whatever it is that you’re pursuing, commit to it. Let this be the moment that plants a seed that you will tend over the long haul, whether it be an athletic pursuit, a relationship, or a passion you’ve had on the back burner for a while. We all deserve to find the thing that we love most and honor it with our whole ability.
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