Recently, I was listening to the Books on the Nightstand podcast, and they were talking about whom they would place on their Mount Rushmore if they had to replace the Presidents with authors. Paying homage to those who had influenced them through the written word got me thinking as to who I would place atop my own running Mount Rushmore.
When I began running track back in middle school, it was my dad who bought me my first pair of running shoes. Soon, I was calling him at work to report to the second what I had run the 2.5 mile loop around the sub division in on almost a daily basis. He was an endurance athlete back then, and we would run and bike together when time permitted during the week. On weekends, we would race. Of particular note one time, I remember when we got into such a pissing match about who was faster on a short run a few hours before a race, that neither of us did well that evening. Those are the moments memories are made of.
He was the first person I called after qualifying for Boston and finishing my first 100 miler. We were able to share the road together again last year as we ran the half marathon in Detroit. I still believe we have miles to share.
I was too young to fully appreciate the weight of his words at the time, and even now, after 20 years, I still find new meaning. When I began running, I sought out Runner's World to fill my appetite. Remember back when the only way to subscribe was to send in the little mailer you found on the walls outside of the supermarket? Each month I looked forward to reading the monthly column of a man who although much older, seemed to be speaking directly to me. He was able to clearly articulate the thoughts that we as runnes often have on the road and put them to paper. That man was Dr. George Sheehan.
When, I moved to the Seattle area for a brief stint several years later, I received a book of his from the people I was staying with, as they knew of my ritual of taking to the road. They said, the bookstore had recommended him. Over the years, I have added several of his books to my running collection and I often return to reread them. I still find new meaning in them as my understanding of life deepens and I look at running in the long view and not just merely tied up in the results of the next race.
Steve Prefontaine is a name that transcends running. His pure grit, determination, and blue collar values are ones that you don't have to be a runner to appreciate. Starting out as a runner in junior high, I heard mention of the name "Pre" but never really came to appreciate the man and his contributions to the running community until years later. My wife, in her running cycles, will often chant, "Pre, Pre" as her battle cry. I admire the man for not only leaving it all out there every time he toed the line, but because he also believed in fairness and standing up for what is right.
9th grade Cross Country Coach: (sorry coach, no pic)
I will never forget the season ending banquet of my freshmen high school cross country season. When it came around for the coach to say a few words about my season, he started with, "When he showed up, he was shaped like a bell,...." Although, they may have sounded harsh to say in public about a pimply faced 15 year old, they were true. I learned a valuable lesson from the man who was not only my cross country coach but my advanced English teacher that year.
He taught me that through hard work and dedication that I could make something of myself. You could argue that your parents might instill that in you, but as an adolescent, I didn't want to hear that from my dad. I so wanted to please this man, an ex-Vietnam Vet, who would often yell, but I yearned for his approval out on the road and in the classroom. I wanted nothing more than to take my soft, bell shaped 25 min 5k cross country time at the beginning of the season and work hard. By the end of the season, this desire had dropped my time to 21:10 and although I still was on JV, I looked forward to the chance of continuing to improve. It is still a lesson that resonates with me today.
So there it is, four faces would adorn my running Mount Rushmore. Who are yours?