Day #21: Run to Her!


Advice my coach gave to me at our first workout

I realized the other day that I neglected to talk about my very influential high school coach in both the newly launched “A Runner’s Podcast” and in my blogposts up until this point. So, I want to pause to mention my high school coach who has been a great influencer in my running ‘upbringing.’ By doing this, hopefully I can help you to reflect upon that someone who has been super influential in your running life. I hope that you will conjure up that name – a teacher, parent, coach or friend – and be inspired to drop him or her a line to say how thankful you are for their input into your life and into what you have become.

During a sermon this past week, pastor Tim – of Grace Church SLO here on the central coast of California – spoke about the wonderful power of upbuilding words in a child’s life. It rings true from experience that words of blessing repeated in a beloved child’s ears are the very seeds of success and joy for the big child who has grown up hearing them. And in the same way, it is evident that words which tear down can similarly erode the self-assuredness and limit the sense of potential in those kids who grow up hearing nothing but criticism. I have two take-home points from this observation:

  1. Be a blessing to those in your sphere of influence. Be an encourager. Build up those around you, choosing to find the nuggets of potential in them and reminding them often of those special traits and talents.
  2. Let those who have been there speaking encouragement into your life know how thankful you are for that!

Gary Wyatt — who still coaches Varsity Girls cross-country at my high school in Potomac, MD – was my first coach, and as far as track and cross-country go, he will forever be “Coach” to me. Coach Wyatt was an inspiration to me and my teammates. He inspired a great confidence in me and our team by his day-in day-out devotion to us, by his vision for what we might accomplish and by his example.

Gary was one of those elite and speedy high-schoolers from the ’70’s – running close to 4 minutes flat in the mile by his senior year, a national caliber 2-miler in the wake of the Prefontaine era and a recruit for the University of Tennessee Volunteers. All of us on the team at St. Andrew’s knew that coach Wyatt had overwhelming speed… and stories! We never doubted his guidance in workouts. As a coach myself years later, I frequently tapped his playbook for workouts and strategies.

I remember, particularly, Coach’s first advice to me upon my first day of cross-country my freshman year in high school. It was 1983 and we were running 1/2-mile repeats on a beaten dirt path around a couple of soccer fields behind our school. Many of my friends were on those soccer fields trying out for the varsity squad which I had given up – in a heady gamble – in order to run. As I ran that first interval – the first of hundreds, likely thousands – I kind of wished I had chosen differently. The soccer guys got breaks, I thought, and all I had was this excruciating cramp in my right side.

Coach saw my pain – and also my determination – and he gave me some advice which I still can recall: “Pat, when you’re cruising along that back stretch there, keep up the tempo. Cut down your strides and keep the tempo…” And then the words that stuck: “And imagine some girl waiting for you at the finish line. Who is that girl, Pat? Run to her! Run to her!”

Who are you running to? When the going gets unbearable – run to her!

Get out there and roll – you can do it! And don’t forget to write out a note, or make a call, and tell that inspirational coach or teacher “Thank you!”

~Coach Reed

image credit: Shutterstock