Sixteen years ago, I began running. I had no clue where it was going to take me. I had no idea what that first fun run was going to bring. I had zero knowledge of all of the places that I would eventually travel to and all the hands that I would shake. Running, at that time, was just another activity for me and would remain a close second to baseball but just ahead of the dreaded cub scouts.
Whenever I tell people that I started running at such a young age, they cringe. They quickly explain to me that specializing when you’re still a child is dangerous and that I should have burned out. I let them vent and then I share with them my all star years spent in the outfield picking weeds and missing pop ups. I wasn’t bad in baseball but I also wasn’t big, or powerful, or anymore coordinated than my counterparts but what I could do was run. Not around the bases though, that 90 degree turn was too much for my range of hip mobility. But I could run! My elementary school partnered with the beginnings of Marathon Kids, a program that has their enrollment run a marathon over a specific time allotment, and I would win every community race. They weren’t suppose to be competitive but I was also seven and missed that detail. I would quickly become one of “those kids” at school who had some sort of quality that everyone knew about. I would run laps at recess, be obsessive about tag, wear local road race shirts everyday, and get overly hyped for the P.E. gym mile. What I’m saying is that I was weird. What didn’t help was that around 5th/6th grade, my dad started a youth development club called Lake Cities Cross Country. Now I was the “running kid” who was apart of a family run club of kids who were identical to me. Not a lot of my peers understood it and a common question was “why do you even practice running?”.
What isn’t understood by the public is generally written off as foreign and thus avoided but fortunately, I still had a pretty normal childhood. Granted, I was and still am socially awkward and that only mixes with running to create the ultimate weirdo but that defines a large proportion of the running community so once I got into my older years of high school, I realized that I was not alone. What also made my obsession with a sport that is deemed as boring and uneventful hard to explain to others was that I was frequently not the best in my age group throughout middle school. I would travel to USATF Junior olympic events and get destroyed. I began going to AAU events and still would never see gold. I even lost a district mile championship to a kid who’s only athletic experience was soccer at the time. He dropped a 4:44 mile on me and to this day is still one of the more devastating loses of my career. I still loved the sport though and once high school started, I quit everything else. I wanted to go to college as a scholarship athlete and I wanted to be an All American. I wanted to graduate college and become a professional and make a push for USA teams. I craved and still do, the opportunity to wear the Red, White, and Blue. Fortunately for me, my youth development was spear headed by a dad who cared for my future and a high school coach who understood that high school wasn’t the end all of my career. Also a mom, who still to this day, asks if I love to run.
I don’t want to leave this blog post as just a story about my youth with no connection to the rest of the world so I do want to make a point. Your mentality defines everything you accomplish. If I had chosen to accept the fact that running was an oddity that shouldn’t be “practiced” then I wouldn’t be here. I would have missed an opportunity to gain an education at the University of Texas, I would have missed out on meeting a lot of my closest friends, and I would have lacked a lot of self development (and calf) from years of failing and working harder for my goals. Just like everyone on this planet, each and every single day I have a decision to make when it comes to bettering myself in the interests of what I deem as important. I will always have days that I fail to live up to my definition of success but as long as I look at myself in a positive light and shed any stress that I cannot change, then I know that I will be successful (and happy). I know that I will continue to develop and continue to surprise myself and I know that even when failure is present that I will overcome it with a clear head and happy thoughts. Too many times we allow others and worst of all, ourselves, to step in the way of what we want or who we want to be and we cannot be afraid to ignore the negativity or the habit of finding comfort in hiding. I would not be a professional athlete if I chose to listen to my insecurities and for that I smile. It took some time in college to figure that out; to look at myself in the mirror and not see failure but only see myself as I am. Once I began to learn how to be positive internally, goals that I had been holding on to for years began to become reality.
Next time your coach tells you “it’s all mental”, don’t roll your eyes because he has a point.
On a less serious note, things are going well in Flagstaff. The first few days were pretty normal for anyone new to altitude, I still can’t really sleep at night, and I also can’t stop eating. For anyone who follows my twitter account, I finally saw a herd of elk so the neighborhood pregnant cat is no longer the biggest animal I’ve seen in the last two weeks. Eric Fernandez and Matt Llano left as soon as the new guys got into town so I still don’t really know if they exist other than the fact that Eric won a race this weekend and Matt keeps grinding through harder and harder workouts. I finally have my LutzGrind shirts on the way to being ready for sale! I haven’t had a Coke product in 4 weeks now, which for anyone who hasn’t lived/been on a team with me to understand that I used to drink at least a liter a day, this is a pretty big thing. I do drink a lot of coffee now, mostly cold brew because I’m difficult. And last but not least, I am opening up on October 4th in the USATF 10 mile championships!
*Foon Fu Photography