Work hard and have a never-give-up attitude
I am biased, but I think running is the greatest sport. Why do I think this? I like that so many people can participate. I also like that there is a competitive aspect to the sport that continues at all levels from youth races to high school races to international races, from all-comers track meets to road races to cross country races to marathons and ultra marathons. There’s something for everyone. But I think what I like the most about running is the fact that the sport rewards hard work and a never-give-up attitude.
Two great examples of this have occurred in the last month.
First is Mebrahtom (Meb) Keflezighi. As we all probably know by now, Meb won the 2009 New York City (NYC) Marathon, becoming the first American to win the prestigious race since 1982. What a sight to see Meb excitedly pointing to the USA on his uniform as he neared the finish line. I could feel his emotions all the way from New York through my computer screen.
Meb went through a lot to be there at that moment. Sure he was the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the marathon. But that was little comfort to him in 2007 when at the Olympic Trials marathon he 1) finished a disappointing 8th and did not qualify for the 2008 Olympic team, 2) lost a dear friend, Ryan Shay, who collapsed and died during that race in Central Park, and 3) suffered a hip stress fracture that would hamper him for over a year. He could barely put weight on his right leg because of the injury and would sometimes have to crawl to the bathroom. At the age of thirty-three I’m sure Meb had to wonder if his time as one of America’s elite runners was about to come to an end.
But champions always find a way. After spending almost all of 2008 rehabilitating and strengthening his right side, Meb was finally healthy again at the start of 2009. The first sign that he was not ready to end his running career was a win and PR at the US Half Marathon Championships in January. That was followed by a win at the US Cross Country Nationals and then a PR at the London Marathon. Meb made a Bay Area appearance at the San Jose Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in October, setting a US 20K record en route to his win in yet another PR (1:01:00) as part of his training for NYC. Then on November 1 the hard work and never-give-up attitude paid off in a big way.
Second is twenty-two year old Stephanie Wilson. She’s a local, having graduated from Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose in 2007. She was 10th in her league, running 19:26 at Crystal Springs and 6th in her league in her final high school mile race, running 5:34. These are very solid varsity level times, but they are nothing so fast that I remember her very well — even though my SHC team competed against her Mitty team many times. Looking more closely at her results, I found that many times a SHC runner had placed ahead of her.
Stephanie stayed local and now runs at Santa Clara University. In 2007, she was not in the team’s top seven. In 2008, she was 10th at the West Coast Conference Championships (22:32) and 71st at the NCAA West Regional.
If the story ended here, it would be a pretty good story about a runner coming a long way, from high school varsity runner to college all-conference performer. But the story does not end here. This past fall, all of Stephanie’s hard work and never-give-up attitude paid off. She was WCC Champion (20:32 – 2:00 faster than the year before). On a muddy afternoon in Oregon at the NCAA West Regional she placed 6th (65 places better than the year before) qualifying for the NCAA Championships. Stephanie’s name jumps out in the regional results because she is the only runner in the top 10 not from one of the three powerhouse teams of Oregon, Washington, and Stanford.
So now, if the story ended, it’s a good one…but it’s still not done. On November 23, at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Terra Haute, Indiana, Stephanie outdid her pre-race goal of placing in the top 40. She came in 28th out of 254 of the best collegiate cross country runners in the country. She was the top runner from California. Since she was the first Santa Clara runner in school history to compete at the NCAA Championships, she was also the program’s first cross country All-American.
Our club is full of people like Meb and Stephanie – people who work hard and have a never-give-up attitude. And to me, that’s what this sport and this running club is all about. Here’s hoping that you too, have your reward marathon race or your reward cross country season some time soon.