When Sir Roger Slayed the Dragon

History and myth have always had an awkward relationship. They inspire each other. They fight with each other. They challenge each other. They support each other. They sound like a married couple. They belong together. And the greatest stories as we tell our children, our family, our friends, often remind us about who we were, are and can be ourselves.

One of my favorite stories, the one about Sir Roger and the Dragon, involves great journeys and battles, chivalry and gamesmanship, trials and tribulations, fact and fiction. It is a story, a great story. It deserves to be told. It needs to be told. Here is the story, the story the way I tell it, the story of Sir Roger and the Dragon…

Roger was born in 1929 on the eve of a long darkness. The world was on the brink of chaos as the intermission between one Great War and another was ending. The promise of peace that had been fought for at the cost of millions of lives only a decade earlier was an empty one. This time, the world would march towards a far bloodier and devastating conflict but not before years of despair. Into this, a time of fear and doubt, Roger was born. The reality of his childhood was one of global economic hardship. Rationing was not only the norm it was a cold necessity for survival. When a child is born into a world like this it is not only bread and butter and tea that is in short supply. So is hope. Hope can’t be rationed though. A child can survive on an ounce of cheese and 4 ounces of bacon and a shillings worth of meat and a few candies each week. Hope isn’t divisible. There are no 1/3 rations available. Young Roger would have to find hope and guard it. Through diminished rations, and dire reports from the warfront, through the despair of the Fall of France and through the terror of the Battle of Britain, Roger would have to hold on to whatever innocence and vitality he could. This resilience or perseverance or optimism, maybe faith is a better word for what he was able to foster and save, it would be needed later in his life. He survived this time but was changed. He was hardened where he would need to be calloused and he remained unscarred where he would need to be flexible enough to dream about taking on the Impossible.

He also fell in love – with movement, with running.

Roger remembers a beach, the sand and the breeze. He remember how they feel as he walks then jogs then runs. He remembered how it felt to move with and against the Earth and how it felt to power his own machine – his body. He could make that machine move with grace and with speed. He could struggle against himself and his own and others perceived limitations. He could struggle against the walls and ceilings that the world had placed around and above him, his generation, his country. This struggle brought liberation. When he ran he was free.

He had found love. His hope had survived.

He would need both when he met the dragon.

Roger was aware that the body and the mind are partners. Without an athletic mind the body becomes dense and slow. Without an active body the mind becomes weak and uncoordinated. Roger found exercise not only on the trails and roads of England but also in his books and in his studies of medicine. It is fitting that Roger was drawn to the complexity and mystery of the human body. Roger would explore his physical capabilities in lockstep with an exploration of another uncharted territory, the brain. The more he learned the more unlocked potential he saw he (we all) contained.

He realized he could achieve the impossible because it was possible.

It would take a special person to take on this Dragon. Somewhere in the Kingdom, a Kingdom that was still healing from losing so much treasure and life, there had to be someone. That someone would need to have survived the great darkness and war with their soul intact. They would need to be someone who still dreamed when they slept at night. They would need to be someone who found strength within themselves. Someone who found strength when they looked out at their Kingdom – a Kingdom that had stood fast and survived – a Kingdom that had vowed to fight anywhere and everywhere the great darkness had tried to spread – a Kingdom that fought against impossible odds – a Kingdom that had vowed to never, never, never give up – a Kingdom that never gave up.

That Kingdom now needed someone to show that, the War over, they had healed enough to stand up. They had regained the strength to get back on the starting line. They had the will, training, the foundation to take on the impossible again. They needed someone to remind them that like them hope had indeed survived after so many hard times. The Kingdom needed a knight. A knight to take on the dragon. The dragon no one else could slay… the dragon that Roger would face on Iffley Road on May 6, 1954.

This dragon had protected the barrier for all time. Challengers from the world over had met the great beast on the field of battle, a dirt oval. Many had come close. But, none succeeded. The dragon remained.

4:00. 4 laps of 440 yards each. One mile. Perfect. Impossibly perfect. Unbreakable?

Change happens slowly. A change can happen quickly though. On that dirt oval, young Roger took on the great dragon named Impossible. Some believed it could not be done. He knew it could. It took Roger 3 minutes 59 seconds and 4 tenths of a second to defeat the Impossible.

The dragon was slain.

Barriers, like dragons, are not destroyed so others can replace them. They are destroyed so we can be free. A little over a month later a different gentlemen, John Landy, broke 4 as well. He ran even faster than Roger.

The dragon was dead. The gates were open. The Kingdom was free.

Newspaper accounts tell us that 3000 people witnessed the boy- born into the Depression-who became a teenager of the World War-who became the young medical student of a broken Kingdom-who became the great Neurologist-battle the dragon and win. But, we know that he was always running for more than those 3000. He was running for all of us and his race continues to be run every time we try to achieve greatness.

It was not until after the Sub 4 that he was given the title, Sir. When I tell the story, I twist the legend and the history. When I tell the story, Roger takes the line as Sir Roger Bannister. When I tell the story, a story that needs to be told, a great Dragon faces a great Knight.

And in the end a great Knight wins.

That part, my friends, is not legend. That is history. That is his story.

That is our story.


If you want to support, share and celebrate the sport and one of its true heroes, Sir Roger Bannister, you can help make a terrific documentary being made about him a reality. PLEASE check out this link and support the sport and the story!!!


A List of (Some of) the Greatest Songs of All Time Until You Find Yourself Running on a Treadmill

I love running. I love music. I only love music and running combined when I am watching on TV an Al Trautwig or John Tesh voice-over-slo-mo-heartfelt-inspirational-promo or when I find myself on a treadmill.

I have to have music on when I run on a treadmill. How else can I adequetely be imagining all sorts of amazing feats of running I am accomplishing in my warped mind without great music?

I need music. The right music.

And therein lies the problem because there is music.

Then there is great music.

And then there is great music that remains great while running on a treadmill.

That means there also exists great music that no longer remains great once you are running on a treadmill. Today, we tackle those songs.

They are out there. They lull you into thinking that the audio experience that you had doing something other than treadmill running will translate to your time spent running on a treadmill.

These songs are liars.

Without any further ado I give you A (not The) List of (Some of) The Greatest Songs of All Time Until You Find Yourself Running on a Treadmill


#1 –

This song should only be played while wearing all white outfits on an English beach while training for the 1924 Olympics or while filming a scene where a group of actors in all white run along an English beach while preparing for the 1924 Olympics. Outside of those two very specific moments, one of which involves a time machine, the song should not be played. It WILL NOT make you run faster or help you get through a tough run.

#2A – We Will Rock You – Queen – Very difficult after a lifetime of slapping your thighs and clapping to not feel the need to do just that when it comes on while you are running. Running while slapping your thighs is awkward and on a treadmill it’s downright dangerous. If this song comes on quickly get off treadmill and do your duty. Then resume run.

#2B – We are the Champions – Queen – Ever tried running, singing and picking up the pace all at the same time? Ever passed out on a treadmill? Not cool. Damn you Queen! Damn you!

#3 – Borderline – Madonna – Anything, really, from Madonna. Actually, I take that back. Express Yourself, Just Like a A Prayer and Hung Up are runnable. What? You think I have a problem with Madonna? Are you kidding?! What are you? 13 years old? Lady Gaga is JV Madonna. You want to play big then play the Immaculate Collection at your next party. Just don’t play it while you are running on a treadmill.

#4 – Tarzan Boy – Baltimora – Confused? If you are then you are not a child of the 80’s. You wanted to be. But you’re not. Tarzan Boy is ours. Unless we are on a treadmill. Then we blame the hippies. When you are backed in a corner by an angry mob that is yelling about global warming, the military industrial complex, continental drift or the song Tarzan Boy just tell them it was the hippies doing. Works every time.

#5 – Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Just kidding. This song is great on and off a treadmill.

#5 – Supersymmetry – Arcade Fire – First, this is one of my favorite Arcade Fire songs ever. That needs to be said up front. In fact, I love running to it as well. I am pretty sure that I am the greatest runner of all time while this song is playing and my shirt is covering the treadmill’s dashboard robbing the real MPH from destroying my imaginary world. It also helps if no one else is around. That being said, the song ends with basically 9 minutes of either silence or barely audible jibberish. Almost reaching a moment of running rapture and then having do deal with what sounds like cheap and now blown out speakers on volume 2 and balance set all the way to the left is too much to handle. The only song that comes close to producing the sheer panic I feel when I realize that Supersymmetry is winding down is “Hey, Foxymophandlemama, That’s Me” by Pearl Jam at the end of their album Vitalogy. I can run for the entire Vitalogy album…almost. That song that I now refuse to retype the name of is what I imagine a serial killer hears all the time. Terrifying. Pretty tough to lay the hammer down, raise the MPH and drive up the elevation at the end of your run when Buffalo Bill is basically performing on your radio.

Great Songs but Terrible Treadmill Songs Honorable Mention: The Final Countdown by Europe, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, Creep by Radiohead, One Moment in Time by Whitney Houston, Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond, Piano Man by Billy Joel, Electric Avenue by Eddie Ocean, that one song by PM Dawn, and the last honorable mention is that song by those guys I can’t remember right now because they never made another song and I never saw them on MTV again back when MTV played videos.

OK, I understand that the list is short. My job is not to save you from every song that seems distorted by the treadmill and set you off on some crazed unchecking of your iTunes library. I simply wanted to save you from the worst abusers. Life on the treadmill does not always mirror life off the treadmill.

Sometimes it’s best to remember that you may be able to run on a treadmill but you can never run away on a treadmill.


An Exhausting Life

I used to be a different athlete than the one I am now. In a way I imagine I will always be that same athlete somewhere deep inside. My time though, as an athlete first and everything else later, well, it came and it went. At times it seems like I was on the starting line only yesterday. At other times, more now than before, it seems like it was all a different life. 

And to them I am not an athlete.

I am their coach.

It is exhausting.

So many of these kids have never really run before they arrive at practice. Hell, more and more of them have never really ever competed in anything before they show up. It’s tough trying to explain to them what it means to run, truly run after greatness, your own greatness. It’s tough to explain how pure running is. It’s tough to explain the necessity of the suffering that running brings and why when you do suffer you don’t just stop and curl up in a small ball and cry but instead just keep on suffering and if possible suffer more. But, I have to explain it. I have to get them to understand. Explaining is exhausting.

I remember searching at times for something, anything positive in my own running when I just couldn’t do anything right. I remember feeling lost when it seemed that all I did was lose. Now I have 35 people that sometimes get lost, feel lost. It’s up to me to find them or at least let them know I am looking for them. That can be a lot of searching. It’s not easy. It’s exhausting.

When I was an athlete I always thought that if I just showed up I would get better. Now, they show up. Every day. And I have to come up with ways to get them better. And then when they get better I have to get them better than that. They want to always get better. Getting people better is exhausting.

As a runner it seemed that I was always walking on the edge of injury and sickness. Now, as a coach, I am walking in front, behind, alongside my athletes trying as best as I can to make sure that they don’t fall when they don’t have to or if they do fall I try to break that fall as best as I can. It can be exhausting.

When I was running I remember the stress when it came to colleges and recruiting. I remember the indecision and the confusion. Now as a coach, if I can maybe shoulder some of the burden, if I can ask the questions for them or at least stand with them maybe they won’t feel rushed or pressured. Maybe they will feel confident and relaxed. Maybe they can make the best decision for themselves. It’s a long process. It’s an exhausting process.

I remember how hard it was to do the little things when I was a runner. I remember thinking that a little thing skipped here or there was not a big deal. No one better hassle me. I run my miles. That should be enough. Now as a coach I harass them about icing and drinking water and gatorade and eating oranges and bananas and getting enough sleep and having a better diet and stretching the right way and doing drills and watching races and reading books. I’m annoying. Being annoying is exhausting.

I remember not believing in myself. Now I find myself as a coach trying to convince teenagers that they are better than they can possibly imagine. That the time, the personal best, is there inside already. Maybe the clock has not confirmed it yet but it is there. I know it. I know it before they do. I want them to believe in themselves the way I believe in them. Faith is exhausting.

Sometimes I hated running. Didn’t matter if I was running well or poorly. I loathed it. Wanted to quit it. I wanted to run away from running. Ironically. Now, I find myself telling them that I know how they feel. I understand. But, too bad. You love it too. And love always wins. Sorry. I don’t make the rules on these things. You want to complain? Go find two guys named Lennon and McCartney. Being broken by what you love is tiring. Putting someone back together is exhausting.

I find myself as a coach having to explain to some of them who Lennon and McCartney are. Having to deal with people who do not listen to the Beatles is exhausting

I remember when I was a runner wondering if it really was possible to reach my potential. Did I really have it inside me to keep working day after day. It seemed like just too much…something. Too much of everything was needed. Now I wonder if I am doing enough to help them. If I did more could they go higher? Can they make it to the top? When they do will they tell me what they see? Being a sherpa is exhausting.

I remember getting butterflies on race day. I remember getting butterflies just thinking about race day. Now I get butterflies for 40 races. That is like 100,000 butterflies. That many butterflies is exhausting.

I was an athlete. Now I am a coach.

It’s exhausting. Ask any coach. And if they are honest they will tell you that they have never slept better. We get to run dozens of races through our athletes every Saturday. We experience their highs and their lows. We get to fight the good fights and battle through those tough ones with them. We get to scream and cheer and get angry and frustrated and laugh and yes, cry right alongside all of our athletes.

It’s exhausting because we are alive the entire time we are coaching. We are involved. Life is not a spectator sport, Doc Sheehan once said. He was right. Life is not meant to be watched from the stands. It is meant to be lived racing around a great oval. Or from the infield. Life is for athletes…and coaches.

So if you find yourself in the bleachers get your butt up and out of that seat. Come down trackside. Don’t worry about the officials. Just act like you belong. (Because we all do.) Take a spot on the starting line and get ready to race. Or join me on the backstretch. I have work to do. Just like every other day. There’s always races to be run.

Remember, there are no rest days when it comes to this sport of life.

For a life fully lived should be exhausting.


Blue is the Trackest Color

A little over a month ago I asked someone that I believe is one of the smartest and funniest people I know to write a guest column for RUNonsense. He agreed. I cheered. Then I waited. A little over a month later I get an article on the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix meet that took place a little over a month ago. It was worth the little over a month wait. Tyler Hopsnatz (not his real name) gives you his critical take on the TV coverage, the meet itself, track & field and a number of totally (un)related subjects. I hope you enjoy and I hope you and I both won’t have to wait, yes, a little over a month longer for another. Cheers, CB


Bennett asked me to write something for his netsite. Presumably his servers can’t handle the overwhelming traffic and he needs to offend off some readers.

Not really. Please keep reading. We need the hits.

The one condition was I had to write about running. But running is kinda boring. Someone should really figure out how to make it less boring. Bennett, get on it. In wracking my brain, I couldn’t come up with an interesting running-related topic, much less an interesting angle on that interesting topic. So I took the easy way out and wrote a diary of the Boston indoor meet. I can blatantly steal a Bill Simmons column idea if it’s about a Boston event, right?

Sunday, 9 February 2014

6:00 PM – What, you thought I was going to spend my Saturday afternoon watching track? It’s Sunday night, I’ve got some laundry on and my landlord and the plumber are working on unclogging the pipe that drains my sink (that’s not a metaphor, I swear. My sink really is clogged. Why won’t anyone believe me?). A perfect time to pull up the meet on TiVo. One of the great things about track’s fledgling popularity is it took zero effort to avoid seeing results. ESPN partially ruined the men’s downhill by telling me Bode Miller didn’t medal, but all I had to do was not pull up Letsrun to not find out Rupp ran 3:47.

6:01 PM – Since I’m writing a meet diary, I told myself I wouldn’t fast-forward except commercials. My resolve is immediately tested when they lead with the women’s 60.

6:02 PM – Fast-forward

6:03 PM – I brought it back to real speed for the commercials. Just wanted to note that these appear to be real commercials, not the infomercials they normally show for track meets and World’s Strongest Man re-runs at 3 AM on ESPNU. This means someone is paying to advertise for a track broadcast. The sport is doing fine. Bennett, what the hell are you complaining about?

6:04 PM – Men’s 60. Joe Morris in lane 3. Bennett has his poster so we know he’ll be rooting for him. The Rock in lane 7. Loved him in Pain and Gain, but not sure if the upper body mass he gained for the roll will translate well to the dash.

6:06 PM – Tim Hutchings behind the mic, huge improvement from the guy behind the mic for every other track and field broadcast of my life. Track will never have its own Phil and Paul, but Tim is a step in the right direction.

6:08 PM – Hey Bennett, I just saw a clip of Rupp signing some girl’s shirt after a race. Again, what the hell are you complaining about?

6:10 PM – Here are the Oscar movies I’ve seen so far:

• American Hustle

• Her

• Philomena

• The Wolf of Wall Street

• Blue Jasmine

• Inside Llewyn Davis (Okay, it wasn’t nominated, but it was better than American Hustle)

Here are the Oscar movies I still want to see:

• 12 Years a Slave

• Dallas Buyer’s Club

• Captain Phillips

• Gravity

Here are the movies that make every one of those movies seem like a high school A/V club project:

• Blue is the Warmest Color

Before I saw Blue is the Warmest Color, I thought Cate Blanchett was great in Blue Jasmine. Now she seems like a cartoon character. When she wins Best Actress, I’ll be rooting for Adele Exarchopoulos to Kanye her.

6:15 PM – When is Trautmann running? That article by Bennett has me pumped up to see him run 4:20. Who do you think would win between Trautmann and Cain? I’m glad we can’t bet on Track & Field. Gambling doesn’t make anything more fun.

6:20 PM – Rupp. Talking head with Rupp. Why don’t they do a talking head with Alberto, but after Hutchings takes him out for 6 beers? Bennett wants ratings, I’m just trying to help.

6:21 PM – Hold on, I’m going to go out to my local track and run once around in 60 seconds.

6:22 PM – The sad thing is I’m not sure I could do that anymore.

6:23 PM – <Pause> Is there any doubt Manzano is going to get shellacked here and then do the shellacking when qualifying spots/medals are on the line? <Play>

6:24 PM – Crack!

6:24:45 PM – What’s with the pace? I thought they were going after the world record?!?

6:25:50 PM – Galen, can I call you Galen? Mr. Rupp, with all due respect, what are you doing? You think you can outkick Willis off a slow pace?

6:26:05 PM – Oh. Nevermind.

6:26:50 PM – “Manzano right out the back door”. Well-called, Hopsnatz (and Hutchings)

6:27:30 PM – One of these guys has a silver medal. One of these guys is doing his own thing.

6:28 PM – Nice win by Willis, but let’s be honest. That race was a colossal letdown. Time for a 16 year old to redeem the telecast.

6:30 PM – Cain out in good position. Showing the field of veterans no respect. Love it.

6:33 PM – Cain is gonna rip the last 200

6:34 PM – OK, Bennett. I give. Mary Cain is awesome. I’ll get you a poster.

6:38 PM – Nice awkward step away by O’Brien after the Cain interview.

Greatest O’Briens of All Time (GOOATs….or GOBOATs?)

1. O’Brien from 1984. Don’t talk to him. Don’t even look at him. He will fu€¥ing break you. Then when you pledge allegiance to The Party, he’ll pull a sack of rats over your head.

2. Conan O’Brien. Lost his fastball with the Tonight Show fiasco, but lately seems to be back in good form. He’s pumping low-90s and painting corners. Meanwhile Fallon is dropping conversation turds every night and somehow he gets The Tonight Show. I guess if you’re looking for a Leno replacement it’s a good fit.

3. Pat O’Brien. Member of South Dakota Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

4. Dan O’Brien. Olympic Gold medalist, Decathlon/Awkward Conversation Ending.

6:40 PM – 4 x 800 World Record Attempt™

6:42 PM – Scherer, you are killing Symmonds. 1:55?!?

6:44 PM – What’s with the different uniforms from guys on the same team? I bet it’s the shoe company’s fault. Bennett, get ‘em.

6:49:15 PM – WOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

6:50 PM – They definitely should not have the 4 x 8 in the Olympics. Nothing exciting about it. The DMR would suck, too. As would betting on it.

6:51 PM – That’s it from The Reggie. Yes, I’m in on The Reggie.

In – The Reggie, Cain, 4 x 800, Hutchings, Willis

Out – Rupp, Brooks Beasts, O’Brien interviews, not showing Trautmann’s race

– Tyler Hopsnatz


Warning! Read Before Running!

When my wife and I were expecting our first child I’m pretty sure we read just about every book and magazine article we could find on being a parent, the baby, the birth, the months leading up to, the months immediately after, the must have products, the must nots, and so much more that I can’t even remember. We were not nervous. We were not ignorant. We were just excited. Almost all the information was bunk, as it usually is, but we did enjoy reading about it all. Over the last 11 years I have joked with my wife, half-joked really, that we should write a book about what really happens when you become a parent. Guaranteed best seller.


For now I am content with writing something for those people out there contemplating becoming a runner. So I asked myself what a non-runner needs to expect if he or she takes those first steps, if she does, in fact, become a runner. I’m going to steer clear of post-long-run-endorphin-crazed ramblings or talk of running highs or magical final straightaways right now. I believe it is best for newbies to experience those in the moment, in shock. I think it is best to let them know what happens, really happens, to all of us runners when we are not floating through glorious sun-drenched trail runs. If they think they can stomach this kick-ass sport after reading what comes next then give them their star and deputize.

They obviously could have taken on a far easier sport but have chosen instead to run. At least they will have been warned.

Here we go:

Sometimes people will crap themselves when they run. That person may be you.

Your new shoes will get dirty. Dodging puddles is a waste of time. Get your shoes dirty. Be done with it. This is not a Road Runner Sports Catalogue.

This is not a fashion show. That being said, it is also not a basketball game or the family backyard Thanksgiving touch football game. Buy some running shoes – real ones, from a running store for crying out loud. And ditch the knee length shorts. If you want to be a runner then be a runner! There are some really great companies out there that make some really great running clothes. They can make you look as cool as you can possibly look while basically suffering for extended period of time. You will feel better about yourself and you will feel like a runner when you wear the clothes made for runners by companies that cater to runners. Buy from those companies and from those stores.

So you may need to change your shopping and viewing habits. Support the sport by supporting those that support the sport. Universal Sports. Oiselle. New Balance. Brooks. Nike. Running Times. Track & Field News. Balega. Flotrack. Running Specialty Stores. They have all stepped up to help running and Track & Field. By paying them back you will be paying your sport back and in turn yourself. Champion and Wilson and Izod can have your business when they start doing business with your sport.

You will get aches and pains. Alot of them. Actually, it is rare that you will not have something bothering you at least a little bit. You don’t always have to take off because something is hurting either. Remember, there is a difference between hurting and being hurt. Knowing the difference is essential. So, realize now that YOU know yourself better than anyone else. Use running to learn about your body.

It’s usually your inability to understand yourself that gets you injured. It’s probably not the shoes, or the road, or the trail or the pace or Alberto Salazar or the hill or the wind or rain or snow or the article or the song that was on while you were running on the treadmill. Getting hurt is usually because of you. Staying healthy? You can take credit for that too.

A good massage for almost anyone other than a runner feels good. A good massage for a runner hurts. It does not hurt good no matter what John Cougar Mellencamp says. It is deep and painful and does not involve the massage therapist talking about Odwalla drinks while Enya is being played.

Sometimes you will pull a muscle except you won’t. It will only be a cramp. You will scream and embarrass yourself. You will be carried back to your car. You will contemplate quitting the sport. You will sheepishly be back running with the crew in a few days.

Ice baths are not fun. If the water is the correct temperature then your toes should feel like they are about to explode until they go numb. Ice baths may not be fun but they are worth taking.

You will get in shape to get in shape quicker than you will get in shape.

When you are finally in shape you will have runs that make you feel like you are in the worst shape of your life.

You will have a hard time dealing with the fact that improvement should be measured by the improvement on your crappy days and not the improvement on your good days.

Don’t run to lose weight. At least not the weight you measure on a scale. Running will not work for you unless you love it and if you are running for any other reason other than your love for it then running just won’t love you back. Try to use running to be a better runner. Believe me, you will become a better person in the process. And if that happens then those weights you want to lose both on the scale and off will disappear. Jacob Marley was not a runner. He should have been.

When you at your best you will be running on a thin line between greatness and sickness/injury.

Many of the runs you go on you will not want to do.

Many of the runs you want to go on will become runs you don’t want to finish.

Still want to be a runner? After all of this? Do ya?

I hope you do

We runners know these things because we learned these things over miles and miles and through aches and pains and the flu and bad races and terrible runs and goals not met. We’ve been through all of this. We kept running. We want you to know that we kept running. You need to know that. And if you really, truly want to be a runner, then you will need to learn these things yourself as you run your own miles.

No one said it would be easy. That was the one thing about running you already knew.

And isn’t that why you showed up in the first place?


I’m Ready to Grow Young Again

We made a promise we swore we’d always remember
No retreat no surrender
Like soldiers in the winter’s night with a vow to defend
No retreat no surrender

Now young faces grow sad and old and hearts of fire grow cold
We swore blood brothers against the wind
I’m ready to grow young again

– No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band

Are you scared about something? Are you worried about the future? Worried about this new generation of kids? Scared that a bunch of young punks have marked you for their next Knockout victim? Maybe you felt sadistic (and old fashioned) and decided to read the newspaper? I understand. The world is a big and scary place run by younger and younger people. It moves ever faster and chaotically. It takes you to heights up in space you are not comfortable with and then drops you in a free fall back to the cold hard Earth. It hurtles you through the air. It offers no help as you crash land. It’s changing. Quickly. It’s a nasty, nasty world.

Where can you go to find the one thing you and I and all of us need? I have a place. You can come. You should come. It’s in the belly of the beast. You will be surrounded by the enemy. Everything you fear will be present: speed, chaos, aggression, pain, them. Everything you need will be there too: hope.

You need to attend a high school State Championship Track & Field Meet.

First, you need to be aware that you will immediately, upon arrival, be surrounded by hundreds of them – teenagers.They will be dressed weird. Some will have shorts, short ones too. Others will have tights, tight ones. They will have knee socks, no socks, hot pink socks you name it. They will all have colors, like a gang. Some will wear blue and others red, still others green and others yellow and purple. They will stick together tight. They have gone through their own initiation rites daily for months to be a part of this, together. They know things about each other, have experienced things together that make you and all not wearing those same colors an outsider. It can be intimidating – hundreds of them.

Don’t leave.

They are willing to do dangerous things without hesitation. They will launch 12, 14, sometimes 16 feet in the air with only their own confidence as protection. They will run as fast as they can straight at a series of barriers and fight the urge to stop or even jump, instead running through and over so they can give something back, something to their gang, their family. They will sprint around the sharpest turns in the midst of rivals decked with little blades on their feet. They will suffer minute after minute as they grind long distances knowing the suffering will only get worse and understanding that their months and years dedicated to those daily initiation rites with their closest friends has been not to hold off this pain but rather to take more of it on at this moment.

They will bump and push and jostle. They will win. They will lose. They will fall, sometimes hard. They will bleed. They will heave. They will lose skin. They will scar. Some will have everything on the line and seemingly all the pressure in the world on their young shoulders. Others will line up with only the promise they gave when they put on their colors that they would give it all. Some will come up short. Some will rise far above what they dreamed possible. Some will cry.

They are young. And strong. They are nervous and jittery. They are cocky and terrified. They know you are watching. Keep watching.

They could be somewhere else. They could be at home, asleep. They could be at the mall. They could be playing video games. They could be doing something, anything that lets them relax and be comfortable. They could be doing other things. Bad things. They could be. But, they are not.

They are there to make themselves as uncomfortable as they can be in order to achieve something. They are there to fight against themselves and the world around them. A voice from within that doubts them. A voice from within that tells them to care less not more. A world that constantly tells them that they should always be comfortable. A world that tells them that they will always win and never lose. A world that tells them there will be medals for everyone. A world that tells them to risk is to fall. Never hurt. Never scar.

They are here, in front of you, to compete against all of that. They do that by training, by dedicating days and months and years of toil to this single purpose: to compete for and with their teammates, their family, their gang. And they will battle against the other teams, families and gangs. They will put all of their vitality and youth into that battle. They will be nervous, loud and aggressive. Some call that scary. So, they will be scary.

Go to a track meet. Watch those scary teens knock each other down and pick each other up. Watch them take all they have, all they have worked for and put it on the line. Watch them risk total failure. Watch them be all in. And watch them attempt and sometimes achieve greatness amidst each other, because of each other.

When the great carnival that is a Track & Field Championship is over you may realize that one of the things that makes this world so scary is not in fact them. It is us. Maybe the world got scarier once we stopped jumping and sprinting and throwing and hurting and risking so much – once we stopped doing all those things that scared us and in turn reminded us that we were alive, that we had potential and that in order to realize that potential we needed to take on our fears.

These kids, these young athletes, they are not fearless. They are merely brave. Once, they were you and I. Youth is not wasted on the young, but it can be wasted on us. Maybe it’s time to look up to and not down on those teenagers, time to be a little bit more like them instead of trying to turn them into us. It’s time to get back on the track or in the circle or on that runway and take some risks.

We thought we would always remember. Didn’t we promise ourselves and each other that we would not forget, that we would hold on to those things that kept us young and scary.

Well, we forgot.

It’s time to be brave again. It’s time to be young again.

Start with a run, a jump, or a throw. That’s what these kids would do.