It’s February and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. It seems only appropriate that I tell the story about how I ultimately fell in love with running. I oftentimes jokingly tell people I got interested in running by annoying my brothers when I was younger. I am the youngest of three boys, with age gaps of 4 and 6 years between my siblings and me. My oldest brother and I were notorious for going at it growing up, so much so that we weren’t usually allowed to sit next to each other when we went out to dinners with the family. So naturally, being the younger brother I was, when we found ourselves crossing paths at home (often) I would annoy him and he would chase me around the house. That’s the joke answer. The real answer has a little more depth and feel good to it.
The real answer is that growing up, I tried most sports as most children do, but exceeded at very few of them. The sport that I gave the most attention to was soccer. I played soccer for around 9 years. I was always fast on the field relative to the competition but that was about the extent of my skill. As I got older, speed became less and less of the outright advantage that it used to be. It wasn’t hurting me, but it wasn’t putting the ball in the net either. My other on field skills were not developing at the rate of the competition’s. In 5th grade, it was announced that my elementary school was going to have a cross country team. Part of PE class was a time trial that everyone had to participate in. The actual distance escapes me but it couldn’t have been more than a mile. The fastest kids throughout the grade would be selected for the team and represent the school in a countywide meet.
To avoid having too many 10-11 year olds running rampant around the school at once, the PE teacher created several sections of students within each class who would take turns competing in the time trial. My class was not the first group of students to go through the time trial, so word had quickly spread about another student, Hugh, who was by far the fastest in the grade. I was really glad I didn’t have to run against Hugh.
A few groups ran their time trial as I stood there nervously awaiting my turn. I wanted to do really well, but I had zero clue what my abilities were. I knew I had short bursts of speed in me, but running for an entire mile was a foreign concept. My section’s turn came up and I toed the line with few expectations in mind. I was determined to just go out as hard and as fast as I could, hold on, and try not to embarrass myself. The teacher yelled, “GO” and the 10 or so of us were off.
The time trial seemed to go by in a blur. I remember rounding the corner of the street and coming down the straightaway in front of the school. I crossed the finish line and to the cheers of my fellow classmates, finished first in my section. Bent over and gasping for air, I listened as the PE teacher called out my time. A silence fell but was quickly broken by an exclamation from another student. “YOU BEAT HUGH!” he yelled as he came over to congratulate me. It turns out I was a full second faster than him but it might as well have been 10 minutes. I was on top of the world and in that very moment knew running was the sport for me.
From 5th grade through college, I competed in cross country and track programs at school. Post collegiately, I have continued my running career, albeit at bit of a slower pace. I ran my first marathon in 2012 with my wife (then girlfriend) by my side. In 2014 I ran my first ultramarathon (with my wife – again, then girlfriend – crewing for me the entire day) and continue to train for similar events to this day. I can trace all of this back to that one day, 18 or so years ago, when I came down the asphalt straightaway and was told that I beat Hugh.