My Running Origin Story: Part 2

This is part two of a four part series. If you missed the first part, you can read that here.

The purpose of this series is to get back to more consistent writing. It is also to help me better understand my relationship with running, a relationship that is always changing. Each section of this piece highlights a time when my relationship with running grew, changed, went to a new level, etc.

All great television series have origin stories for their main characters. You can consider this my running origin story.

Tenth Grade

I entered tenth grade off a great summer of training and a summer that forever changed the way I viewed running. I had used running that summer to cure a broken heart and had learned to truly love the sport. I came into that cross country season confident and ready to kick some ass. I had put in the work during the summer and it showed that fall.

The race that sticks out was our home cross country race, the Windjammer Invitational. Three laps around Englewood High School and it was a fast course. During the third lap, I was feeling surprisingly well and I caught up to my teammate Eric as we started the one big hill on the course. As I caught up, he suggested we go and try to catch our teammate Michael, who was further ahead. I instantly made a move to try and catch my other teammate.

Here’s the thing, up until that point I was running the best race of my life. It was one of those moments in life where you know its special as its happening. Eric and Michael had beaten me every race that season. And here I was trying to beat these guys. It should be mentioned that I never caught up to Michael and Eric beat me that day. It did not matter though.

For the first time, I felt empowered while running. I had taken a chance and made my own race. I tried to beat someone who was better than I was. That feeling was one of the best feelings of my life. I had pushed my passive self aside and gone for it. Running is not a sport where you talk during it, but I had made a statement. I now knew what it meant to give my best effort on a day and I knew I wanted to replicate that feeling. The end result was a 19:18 5K, a new personal best. Yes I lost to those other two, but losing is easy to accept when you left it all out there.

Cross country my sophomore year is where I learned what it felt to get the best out of myself. Track my sophomore year I learned just how cool it was to win races. I moved down distances in track and began focusing on the 800 and 400. I was just quick enough to be our fifth fastest 400 runner, which means I got to run the 4x400 on occasion.

No track event matches the 4x400. It is always the last race of the meet. Each member on the relay runs one lap around the track. 400 meters is the perfect balls to the wall distance. Long enough where the monkey can jump on your back, but short enough to convince you to go for it. And because it is the last race, everybody at the meet pays attention to it. If you run down someone in a 4x400, your teammates are going to notice you. Your relay squad wins the 4x400? Everybody on the bus gets on feeling happy.

That year, I got to run on a 4x400 team that won a race. It was a small 3A Metro League Meet. We were running our best four runners we brought to the meet that day and it was clear the other teams were not. That did not matter though. I remember I got the relay baton in second place and I just started blasting. I caught the runner in front of me about 100 meters in and then just ate him up the entire backstretch. I handed the baton off with a comfortable lead and we cruised to victory.

I was one of the first on the bus after that race and I remember so many people walking by me telling me I ran great. That was such a satisfying feeling and I knew then and there that I would always want to chase glory on the track.

I’ve always taken great running photos.

Eleventh Grade

Tenth grade seemed to just keep sailing up and up, so it seems I was due for a bit of humble pie in eleventh grade. The summer before cross country I was complacent and put in barely any work. I had assumed that I would continue on an upward trajectory. The exact opposite happened during cross country. I spent the whole season that 19:18 5K from the previous and ultimately came up short. I only ran under 20 minutes for 5K once that year.

This was the first time where I learned that running does not care about your goals. It does not care who you are. The only thing running rewards is consistent hard work. You cannot fake fitness. If you show up unprepared, you will be exposed. At the time, that lesson felt cruel. It was not until later that I began to love and respect that aspect of running.

Because of my failure in cross country, I was determined to succeed in track. I started working out in the off season. My little brother Cole, our teammate/best friend Chad Glover, and I started running at the Englewood Recreation Center every night. In part three is where I will go more in depth on both my brothers and what they did for me and my love for running. Right now, I need to tell the story of Chad Glover.

Chad first reached out to me when I was a sophomore and he was in eighth grade. He loved middle school cross country and track and just wanted to talk to some of the older high school guys about it. At first I thought it was a little strange but eventually I was at a middle school race, met Chad and decided he was a cool guy. Our friendship really started to take off that next year when he was a freshman (myself a junior) and we ran cross country together. It was as simple as I love the sport, you love the sport, lets be friends.

Chad was really first time I saw someone younger than me and felt like I had an obligation to work hard for them. I was an elder statesman on the team and felt like I had to set an example for the young guys. I was named captain that year in cross country and it was the first time I felt like I had to work hard for my teammates. I looked at guys like Chad, who loved the sport and wanted to be great, and it lit a fire under me. Up until that point, I had just run for me. Now I had to think: What does it mean to work hard? What does it mean to be an example? What does it mean to love the sport?

This was the first of many times I asked this during my running career. I really felt it those last two years of high school, it hit me really hard again my last two years of college, and it hits me every year now that I’m coaching. My goal is always to pass a little bit of the wisdom and the love on to the younger generation as they go through their running journey.

Transition back to Chad, Cole, and I putting in that work on the Englewood Rec Center (ERC) track. That winter I was super busy. I had basketball practice every week day, and after practice I would go to run at the ERC. After that, I would do homework and go to bed. That routine caught up to me in a couple months. My Mom noticed I was limping during warmups of my last basketball game before winter break. She took me to the doctor and an X-Ray revealed my first stress fracture. Heartbreaking. My basketball season was taken away from me. I could no longer run. I had to wear a boot anytime I walked around. It was the first time I was robbed of almost all physical activity and probably the hardest experience of my life up until that point.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and once I was cleared to run in February I hit it again in full force. I came into the track season motivated. I had also decided at that point that I was built to run the 400 and the 800. My main focus was the 800 because it felt like that perfect combination of endurance and speed, two things I had some talent for.

The highlight of that track season happened at my last race, our league meet. I ran the opening leg of our 4x800 meter relay and my split time was 2:05. That felt significant because I was just 5 seconds from running under two minutes, a huge barrier in running. Also if I could run under two minutes, I was pretty much guaranteed a spot in the state meet. I felt like I was destined for a great year my senior year.

Twelfth Grade

You would think coming off a great track season my junior year I would be raring to go. Looking back, however, I think I settled a bit. I do not think I was as engaged in the present moment as I should have been. I ran an 18:46 5K in cross country, my personal best. I was our third best runner on the team and captain and settled into that role. The summer leading up and into the season, there was never a moment when I felt like I could challenge the other two. Looking back, I wish I had more hunger and the guts to not settle. But instead I focused on leading the team. I realized I had a passion for encouraging others to work a little harder and get the best out of themselves.

My track season was a lot of the same. I ran a 2:08 in the 800, a good result that fell short of the promise I felt like I had shown the previous year. But for the first time, I just worked with the distance team and really enjoyed watching others work so hard.

The most important thing that happened to me this year was I decided I wanted to coach. All around throughout high school I had seen a lot of talented athletes come up short. I felt like they did not quite have the support they needed. I envisioned myself being the one to provide that support.

Thank you for reading. Love you.

Tucker

Just a guy who runs and tries to do some writing