Growing Up. Not Growing Old.

Last week I hit the jackpot. I got to spend some time with some young adults. Strike that. I’d rather not use that word “adults” here. I was lucky to spend some time with kids. And these were no ordinary kids. You know what? Strike that word “ordinary” too. I don’t believe there is any such thing as an ordinary kid. I was lucky enough to spend time with some extraordinary kids.

These kids have dedicated a part of their lives to entertain, inspire and motivate other kids. Some of them sing. Some of them dance. Some of them run, play football, soccer, gymnastics and any number of other sports. Some of them open up cool things up and show you what’s inside. They make others smile, get moving, get out. And so many kids today need something or someone in their lives that makes them happy. These kids are that something, that someone.

They came out to the Michael Johnson Track here at Nike’s WHQ. It was raining. It’s always raining here. They were all jet lagged. And they were hungry. Kids are always hungry. They were tired. Tours and walking and listening and more walking will eventually even tire a kid out. But here they were at the track being introduced to a Coach that wanted them to run.

And you know happened? Did they complain or make excuses? Did they ask for shortcuts or whine? Did they say they couldn’t or wouldn’t do it? Nope. They’re kids. So they said “let’s roll”. And when I said in return “get ready to race the Rio Olympic Gold Medalist Matt Centrowitz” did they back down? Nope.

They formed a relay, lined up, ran their hearts out, cheered for each other & took him down. These kids reminded me that all that is great, brave, honorable and pure about us lives within our youth. And we all have those younger versions of ourselves alive within us still. We just need to smile, get moving, get out. We just need to be on more relays together, run our hearts out, cheer for each other, and we too can do impossible things.

We can grow up and not grow old.

When the victorious tribe left the Michael Johnson Track it was still raining and the clouds still blanketed the sky. But I swear the day seemed brighter…and so did the future.


When Running Away is the Bravest Thing To Do

I was at NXN – the Nike Cross Country National Championships – with my team.
It was the night before the race.
I saw Joan Benoit Samuelson coming down the stairs.
I thought “I need to make my move. Screw all these kids. They can get in line behind me.”
I broke into a jog.
I’m a firm believer in thanking the people who inspired me. And, shaking their hand.
“Hi, I’m Chris Bennett. I made a video of you.”
My slow run combined with the weird video comment may have set off some internal alarm bells with JBS.
I thought, “at best I’m creepy and at worst I can expect a restraining order delivered to me before the race tomorrow.”
Luckily, JBS is used to people coming up to her and saying or trying to say thank you.
Unfazed, shook my hand and asked my name again
(Probably for the detective she would be talking to later I thought)
“You made The First Gold, right?”
She’d seen the video I made!
(I made videos on YouTube for my HS athletes hoping they would become fans of the sport.)
“Yes. That one! It’s about your ’84 Olympics…Gold Medal…the Marathon…in LA.”
Speaking coherently was becoming a problem.
“Thank you for making that.”
I was losing consciousness but I knew I had something to do before I did.
One of my heroes just said “thank you” to me.
But I was the one who was supposed to say thank you!
OK, rewind…Joan Benoit Samuelson was my first running hero.
And it wasn’t because she did anything superhuman.
I’m not that inspired by the idea of “superhuman”.
I’m inspired by super humans.
JBS was my hero because she took the lead 4 miles into that ’84 Olympic Marathon.
And no one went with her. 22 miles running alone.
That had to be terrifying.
And at 7 years old there’s a lot about the world that can be terrifying.
But she ran brave.
Watching her race made me realize that it’s the scary stuff that gives us a chance to be brave.
Fast forward…
I stayed conscious and I said what I needed to.
Thank You.
I was speaking for the runner and coach I had become and for that 7 year old boy I was.
She walked away.
I walked back to my team.
They had a race to run tomorrow and were probably nervous.
And I wanted to tell them a story about running brave.