On Father’s Day, we wanted to share this essay from Trevor Dunbar, a professional runner for the BAA. Trevor’s father, Marcus, was also a standout professional runner and coached him at Kodiak High School in Alaska. Here’s Trevor in his own words…
“Stember is gonna take it,” I turned and said to my father.
“Over Webb? No way, Trev,” he replied.
I liked the way Stember looked good in the prelims and how he was staring down Webb in the home straight. It was bold. It was cocky. It reminded me of me. I also picked him to go against my father, Marcus, and his friends. All of them had picked Webb to win. At the time, I had just finished seventh-grade and I was a little shit.
I successfully begged my dad to join him and his buddies in Sacramento for the 2004 Olympic Trials. Against my dad’s wishes, I decided to give up baseball, which I normally played every spring and summer, so I could focus more on running and my goal – a sub-five minute mile. Before that year, my focus and passion was primarily on other sports. Basketball was my first love and Kobe Bryant was my hero. It was my dad who always encouraged me to do multiple sports and then if I loved running or any sport in particular, by the time I was a sophomore in high school, then I could specialize in it.
That was his coaching philosophy for me: take your time, enjoy other sports, and don’t follow a structured training regime.
Dad was the track and cross country coach for Kodiak High school and the PE teacher at Kodiak Middle School. Essentially, I was around my pops at all times those years. At school and at home constantly pleading with him to let me workout with the high schoolers so I could further push myself toward my goal. I didn’t end up getting to attend the high school practices, nor did I reach my goal (5:00 PR) but when Pops decided to take me with him to Sacramento, everything was right in my world. Although I knew I would miss baseball that summer, I was at a turning point of becoming a serious runner and this was an amazing opportunity. The keys to my new Ferrari were 10 days of track and field with my Dad, my mentor, my best friend. Most importantly I finally got my way – a win for the little shit.
Those trials were my first memorable experience with high-level track and field, and I ate it all up. We went for runs on the American River despite 100 degree heat, ate out for every meal and watched a hell of a lot of track. My dad and his friends, Vic, Guy and Johnny B. thankfully loved every event just as much as me. We had a blast betting a couple bucks on the winning times and always trying to correctly pick the Olympic team for every event. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face every time that it was to go bake in the sun and watch more track. When we weren’t at the stadium, we were always finding fun things to do. I challenged my dad to about 100 ping pong matches and lost every one. I played golf for the first time and lost every ball. We raced a road mile in Davis and I ran another 5-oh-something). To this day, my dad still claims was the most fun race of his life. We went to Lake Tahoe, partly for a beautiful getaway during the break, and partly so Vic could get his In-N-Out fix which was on the way there. We attended a coaching panel which I found a snooze and a former athlete panel with legendary miler Steve Scott which I loved.
Throughout the whole experience I was peppering my Dad and his friends with questions, studying the ins and the outs of the sport. We would quiz each other on track history and trivia, my Dad always knew the most. My pops told us different stories of his competitive running days which culminated in near misses: a sub-four (4:00.58) and three times the first man out of the trials (1500 in 88 and 92, steeple in 96). Despite some frustration with his failures, he told us how grateful for the experiences that shooting for those goals enabled him to.
I learned a ton that summer and fell head over heels in love with the sport, our sport. My intense love for running had already gotten a spark that track season, but that Sacramento trip blew it into a blazing fire.
We got a chance to meet a lot of great people like Alberto Salazar, who I’ll never forget told me, “There’s no such thing as too many miles, kid.” I thought he was joking but now I’m not sure. Our seats were right next to Sanya Richards’ family and they were awesome especially when cheered like crazy when she made the Olympic team. In the airport on our flight home we saw Alan Webb, who we congratulated on his dominant performance in the 1500 and wished him good luck in Athens. I was terrified my Dad was going to mention how I had picked Stember to upset him in the final. I’m thankful he didn’t. I’m thankful for a lot of things.
I’m so thankful to get that Olympic Trials experience at a young age. I’m more thankful my Dad never forced me into running and my love developed on it’s own. I am grateful everyday I get to share my journey in the sport with him.
My dad taught me to enjoy the process, be a student of the sport, have patience, and seize every opportunity with a full heart. Those lessons started on that trip and have continued ever since. Now I’ve become the better ping-pong player, golfer, stats man and runner. And I have to rub it in, because I’m still the little shit.