If you are ever feeling sour about running or the sport’s beginning to feel a bit stale, then I highly recommend finding a way to surround yourself with young athletes.
During my professional career, there was nothing more rejuvenating after a long season than stopping by a cross country camp, and experiencing the enthusiasm of kids who see the sport through a fresh lens.
As anyone involved in track in any capacity already knows, there is plenty to push us toward bitterness: bad races, drug cheats, a lack of funding, injuries, the crushing reality that there will always be someone out there who is faster… Although it’s pretty understandable why track Twitter regularly devolves into a toxic cesspool of complaining — it still occasionally makes me wonder, like, are any of us even having fun anymore?
Well, if growing resentment over the ills facing the sport is ailing you, let high school kids be the panacea!
Being a part of the festivities at New Balance Nationals, that early spark that drove us all to a lifelong obsession with this sport was everywhere, and it was contagious. It felt like I walked into The Armory for the first time, all over again. Maybe it was the personalized uniforms or the cult-like craze for the backpacks, but for most of these teenagers, there has never been a bigger stage to compete on. The fervor was palpable.
When analyzing all the possible reasons behind the surge of depth and all the wildly fast high school times today, I can personally attest to the power of exposure. As I was coming up, the more I learned about the sport, the faster I became.
As a distance running-lone wolf at a school with a much more developed sprinting program, my development really started when I was introduced to others who enjoyed logging miles as well. Representation is essential — and while seeing other skinny dudes who enjoy ripping tempos in short shorts is pretty far down the list of places where representation is important, for me at the time, it was.
A friend recently told me that I’m the only person they know who grew up to do what they dreamed of as a kid. And my journey to making that possible in this sport began to slowly materialize when I became a fan. If I can be so bold as to give some advice to coaches who are hoping to get more investment from their kids, get them interested in the elites — it’s one of the main reasons why I write this newsletter!
While it was motivating to see how fast other guys my age across the country were running, the idea that I aspired to one day be amongst the world’s best gave that process long-term vision. Listening to Derrick Adkins after his Olympic gold medal in Atlanta or meeting Craig Mottram after the Boston Indoor Games — these were pivotal moments in my life that helped shape the trajectory of my career.
During the national meet this weekend, we had the chance to facilitate conversations between some of the best runners in the world, now, with the future stars of tomorrow. The high schoolers were legitimately stepping off the track and a few minutes later sitting down with their heroes. There were no introductions necessary — thanks to social media, people like Emma Coburn, Trayvon Bromell, and Cory McGee aren’t just names on the results page. They’re people living out their dreams, whose paths to greatness feel navigable. They’re proof that their dreams can come to fruition. And they’re setting the bar now that these younger athletes can set their sites on and strive like crazy to clear when they’re pros.
But that moment wasn’t just special for the kids — passion is infectious.
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