Tag Archives: Olympics

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.

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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.

Mo In Common Than You Think 

That’s me on the left & Mo Farah on the right. We were at an event together a few months ago. I congratulated Mo & told him his performances have been nothing short of epic.
Mo Farah was a double Gold Medal winner at each of the last two Summer Olympics. He won the 5k and 10k at the London Games AND the Rio Games. Double gold medalist. Twice. 

I watched all the races on my TV & I jumped off my couch cheering like a maniac as Mo ran those final laps. And when it was over I collapsed back onto the couch. Exhausted. 

He’s a rare athlete indeed.

But Mo & I have something in common. I’ve won some gold medals too. See them right there pinned on my shirt? They’re from the Monmouth County Championships.

I lined up for the 3200m first. I was nervous as I toed the line. That’s always a good sign. Being nervous means you care. I settled in the pack & bided my time. The goal was to make the least amount of mistakes & then kick like hell. I kicked. 1 gold medal down.

I came back in the 800m. Different kind of race. The 800m is really just a long sprint. You’re in extremis the whole time. Game-plan: hold on & outlast the other guys. I did. 2 gold medals. 

I know they weren’t won in a stadium with 80,000 people on the sport’s biggest stage. My medals were won in front of 500 people sitting restlessly in aluminum stands. But, to me, 500 people was a lot of people & County Champs was a big stage. 

The competition there was just as fierce as it was at the Olympics too. My nerves, fears, & hopes were just as legitimate as Mo’s. And at the end of those races when Mo felt like his legs were filling with concrete while he ran through quicksand with fire tearing through his lungs… well, I had those feelings too.

So, I know you don’t have to be an Olympian to feel those things. You just need to take a starting line & try to get the best version of you across the finish line. 

Yeah, Mo & I have some things in common. And if you try your best, well, you have something in common with Mo too. After it’s all said and done if there’s any difference between Mo & I when we race it’s just the times on the clock. 

Well, that & the fact that I came back again & won the 1600m. 3 Golds. 1 Meet. Sorry Mo. 3 Golds is more than 2. 

There’s always Tokyo.

The Need For Speed

Coach office hours are open & today we talk about SPEED! Hot blooded & full throttle SPEED! Legs & arms driving, lungs pulling, heart pumping SPEED!

Who should do these types of crazy runs – Track Workouts/Speed Runs? I’ll make this easy…if you are reading this…you should do Speed Runs/Track Workouts.  

No you do not need a Track do to a Track Workout or Speed Run. All you need is a workout & something inside you that’s willing take a chance on yourself. If you have these two things, well, it’s time to rock ’n roll.

Did you think there was more that was needed? Maybe some mythical kind of fitness? Maybe you believe only REAL runners can do a Track Workout? I won’t ask what you think a REAL runner is because if you think there’s such a thing that means you believe there’s such a thing as a FAKE runner too.

How can I put this delicately? That’s all total bullshit. If you run you’re a runner. And if you don’t run you’re a runner that’s not running right now. And all Runners should do Speed Runs.

You’ll probably tell me that you’re not fast enough. You are. You’re in complete & total ownership of your own speed. You have a fast pace and you have a faster pace than that fast pace. You have a fastest pace too. You can’t do that one for very long…no one can do their fastest for very long.

You also have your easy pace and a strong pace. These are all speeds that YOU own. And when you go to the track you’ll play, yes, play with these speeds of yours. 

Go ahead, you can tell me you don’t know what to do. I got that covered. 

Go somewhere you can safely run – street, backyard, sidewalk, park.

Run easy for 2 minutes. Run so easy that you feel like you could run forever. 

Then stop. Gather yourself. 

Think about the word ‘strong’. When you’re ready…run “strong” for 1 minute. Feel strong.

Stop. Gather yourself. 

Now run ‘fast’ for 30 seconds. I didn’t say ‘fastest’… just fast. 

Stop. Gather yourself. 

Run for 15 seconds…15 seconds of filthy, laugh out loud speed with a smile on your face!

Stop. 

You just did a Speed Run. Badass. 

Welcome to the Club. 

No. 

Welcome back to the Club. 

Hurts So Good. 

I only had a few goals.

One of them was to qualify for the Olympic Trials.

I was good. 

Maybe, I thought, even Olympic Trials qualifier good.

I was not Olympic good. 

I may have thought I was at one point.

But I wasn’t.

I eventually understood that.

When you do some strides with a 3:50 miler you can’t help but understand. 

I was okay with it. 

Because I knew that if I really busted my ass I could qualify for the US Olympic Trials in the 1500m. 

I could line up next to the best milers of this great country…and belong.

I could race knowing I earned my bib and my spot on the starting line. 

That was one of my mountaintops. 

I spent years and years trying to climb there.

I was close.

I could feel it.

The day the accepted entries came out I scrolled down the list. 

I had run 3:43.93.

I read the final time listed.

I read the final name. 

That’s not my time.

That’s not my name.

There would be no bib for me.

I hadn’t earned a spot on the line. 

I was only 24 years old. 

I knew I would run faster. 

I knew there would be another Trials.

I knew I would make it next time…four years later.

It’s funny. You don’t know you’ve just run the fastest you will ever run when you run the fastest you have ever run. 

You just think “I can be faster”. But I never did run faster.

And I didn’t make it next time. 

When the 1500m field gets called to the line at Trials, I see me there lining up alongside them.

But I’m really just up in the stands. 

A fan.

A runner.

I may not be on the line, but my heart still races every time I hear the gun.

The Olympic Trials is my favorite meet. 

Because it hurts a little every time I watch.

And I’m proud of myself that it does.

The Most Elite Version of Yourself

 

Elite is not a time on a clock.

It’s what happens during that time on the clock.

Elite is not a medal.

It’s what you did to earn that medal.

Elite is not a distance.

It’s about running the distance.

Elite is not a finish line.

It’s a starting line.

Elite is not a pace.

It’s an effort.

Elite is not perfect form.

It’s keeping your form.

Elite is not a headline.

It’s the story.

Elite is not elitist.

It just means being the most elite version of yourself. 

The Longest Run

Travis died during practice. He was stronger than he had ever been. He was full of potential and life and his dreams were coming true. He was running better than ever. 

He still died during practice. 

We were all just kids. We were all 22 maybe 23 years old. We flooded the hospital. The doctors didn’t know what to do when we all showed up – when they had to tell us. 

They saw in us what we saw in ourselves – a never ending run. 

But Travis died.

Hearing heart muscles or an enlarged heart or too much heart as reasons for why it happened didn’t answer the question we all had. 

We knew why in the medical sense we just wanted to know why in all the other senses.

I still don’t know. 

Travis died during practice. 

I think about him on cold days. Rainy days. Shitty days when the idea of running makes you want to batten down the hatches and hide underneath the covers. He’d have run.

Travis was a pure cross country guy. Tough. Hard. Joyful. 

Thinking of him can get me through a tough run – a tough day. 

Travis died during practice almost 15 years ago. 

That was a bad day. 

But he would have wanted us to keep running through all the sadness with its crying. And the anger with its cursing. And the confusion with its despair. And the questions. Always the questions and never the answers. 

He would have wanted us to keep running like the race was never going to end. 

Like we all ran before that practice.

Like Travis did every time he ran. 

He would have wanted us to know that his death was not the finish line. 

Because there is no finish line.

Ever. 

And someday we’ll all line back up, Travis and the whole damn team on a starting line somewhere. The weather will suck and it will be muddy. Because XC in Heaven is real XC. Which means Travis will be tough to beat.

Someday…

Travis died during practice. 
I’m thinking about him tonight. 

And I’m thinking about teammates everywhere that are missing a teammate tonight.