What’s Your Why?
Being selected as an Athlete of the Month is a culmination of my playful childhood, environmental upbringing, and having the right pieces in place during developmental years. I am fortunate to have been blessed growing up with only channels U-13 on the TV dial (no remote – the horror!), which meant I wasn’t surrounded by TV, video games, and social media. Instead, I grew up experiencing continuous outdoor play, from sunrise to sunset, playing activity games like Kick the Can, Hide n Seek, Tag, and Marco Polo. It wasn’t until the 8th grade that I was asked to attempt to qualify for our school in the open 400m for a track meet the following week. The first time ever lacing up shoes to actually take part in a competitive race wasn’t quite what I had expected. The atmosphere felt judgmental, embarrassing, and quite distant from what I was used to. This was an experience I never wanted to be a part of again. Fast forward to high school in a different community when I was fortunate to be surrounded by knowledgeable coaches who were passionate, educated and experienced in the sports of track and cross-country. The atmosphere was fun, yet challenging, one with a little bit of science, a little bit of kinesiology, and just a great vibe at practice. I went on to have a small collegiate running career, which ended abruptly during a pick-up basketball game – darn ankles. I then began coaching in 1999, which has continued to this day.
In conjunction with coaching, I began teaching so that I could pay the bills and support my newfound passion of helping others pursue their running goals. I studied Exercise Science at Eastern Washington University, then earned a masters in Sport Psychology. As a part-time teacher, I set a goal when I was 28, telling myself that if I was still part-time at the age of 40, I had to do something different. In November of 2013, at the age of 38, I began coaching a 7th grade middle school runner who ended up having a nice middle school and high school career at Lincoln High School in Portland. When we began, he was raw, both emotionally and physically. I had only known one way of training, and that was through a scientifically derived manner, so needless to say, I worked him very, very hard. But he battled. He came to practice every week, ready for the next dose, becoming stronger and stronger, until one day, the baton was passed. That was a couple of years removed from 2013, but taking a quick peek back, I had lost out on a full-time position in the spring of 2015, which broke my heart – at the age of 40. The writing was on the wall – I was never going to become a tenured professor and it was time to begin making lemonade.
Teaching at the college level means I get a chance to meet some very bright students and future entrepreneurs. On a run with one of those students, I shared with him my trials, and that I was thinking of starting a running organization. Long story short, he created my logo and helped with the website, and Whisper Running was launched. Coming full circle, I aim to provide to my athletes with what some of my mentors from the past provided me. One coach taught me about being ethical, forthright, and honest. Another coach taught me how to recruit and lead a team. Others fostered my desire to becoming a technician, a scientist, a kinesiologist, a shrink, a mentor, and so much more.
Running is a unique sport in that it requires a lot of many small pieces to fit into place. Accountability between you and another human, or at the very least, you and your goals. Also, on some level, running must be fun – either the finished product of a good workout or race, meeting a friend for a run, or the idea of simply being done with your run is fun. Running awakens the soul and provides a sense of living, a sense of purpose and/or a sense of fulfilment and accomplishment. I run in the mornings, and as a colleague once said and I agree, “Even if my day goes down the drain, I know that if I get my workout done in the morning, I can lay my head down at night knowing I accomplished something that day.” In a day in age where many people are looking for fulfilment in unhealthy ways, running is my foundation that keeps me centered.
This is what is beautiful about running clubs, including Clark County Running Club and Run, Grub, Chug, as well as youth running organizations like Whisper Running, Camas XC, Evergreen Storm, and more. They provide that sense of community. They offer a place for someone to challenge themselves, or at least be themselves. Community and a positive attitude always trump ability and results. The kids I work with get this sense, and that is why they come back. And why they come back, is why I must continue staying one step ahead in pursuing my own running goals and dreams. It is why I wake up each morning to pursue the Unicorn. Like I inspire them, they too, inspire me.
In summary, I suppose my response to the Athlete of the Month is that my motivation has evolved in my years of running. From my desire to chase goals, to my desire to teach goals. But no matter what my motivation has been, running has always been something I am blessed to be able to do; it’s been fun, it’s provided a challenge, and presently, it provides vitality in every aspect of both my own running, as well as my athletes.
Thank you for reading.