A friend called a week ago to ask me to speak about what running has given me to a group of young runners at his camp. I immediately said yes. I speak to groups about journalism frequently. And I enjoy that. But talking about running is something I could probably do in my sleep. He asked me to speak specifically about what the sport has given me.
I could probably go on for hours on that topic, but his camp is comprised of about 250 jr. high through high school-aged kids whose attention span for some guy their parents have seen on the news occasionally is probably relatively short. It turns out some are already accomplished runners who are part of the storied York High School program. Others are hoping to be part of the cross country team there eventually. It's a good chance that they will win a state championship one day as part of the team. York is always one of the top three or four teams in the state.
And now I know how. They get kids excited about running at an early age. When I ran in high school, York coach Joe Newton was already a legend. That was 30 years ago, and he's still coaching state champions. But this camp is run by Charlie Kern, who teaches at York, and also happens to be the former World Master's Champion in the mile. He's also a heck of a coach and motivator for young runners. One of the more interesting tidbits I got to see was some of the prerunning stretching routine he teaches his runners.
The week before I spoke, he had former Olympian Adam Goucher speak to his camp. He also had several successful coaches and runners in attendance as well to help coach the kids. So when I got there at 7am last week, I wondered what the heck I could add to the program! I'm just a reporter to happens to love running. I'm far from an elite runner, and the closest I'll ever get to the olympics will be on my television.
But I do love running. I've always loved sports. I played football, basketball, and baseball to name a few. But I always seemed to find the most success in running. I never won a state title. I never got recruited by big time colleges. But I did earn a letter in cross-country in college (as a walk-on), and to this day it's one of the things in my life I'm most proud of.
My friends who played those team sports in school for the most part have long since retired. It's pretty hard to find a football team to play on after you are out of school. But it's pretty easy to lace up a pair of running shoes and head out the door.
And that's the point I tried to share with the kids. Most of them probably won't run in the Olympics. And few of them are likely to make a living from running after college. But they will all be able to continue doing it, long after their school days are behind them. Running is more than a sport. It's a lifestyle. It something you can keep doing forever.
That's what I told them. People who recognize me from my work often say hello, followed by some sort of recognition that "you're that guy who runs a lot right?". I'm ok with that identity. Running has allowed me to stay fit, keep calm and centered in the midst of crazy family and professional situations, and introduced me to some amazing people.
I have run with Olympians, and world class athletes. I have lifelong friends who are regular running partners. The running community is where I feel most comfortable, where I relate best to people. I follow the sport in print and on television. Obviously, it's either a big part of my life, or I need a life!
I didn't bore them with all that. But they seem like a great group of kids who are well on their way to becoming successful runners and students themselves. And I expect many will eclipse my relatively modest accomplishments on the track, roads, and cross country trails. Hopefully, they will be able to enjoy running throughout their lives. I will certainly be following their success through high school!
See you on the roads......