Friday, February 2, 2007

"Running With All Your Heart"

“The Runner’s Path”
By Cheryl D. Hart
February Issue : Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine

“Your rewards in life will be in direct proportion to the contribution you make.”
---Anthony Robbins

Valentine’s Day brings out the loving and giving spirit in most of us. This time of year, Hallmark proves there is a basic human need for positive affirmations. This holds true in running, as we can each recall a time when someone offered an encouraging word to help us rise above self-doubt, pushing us to our full potential. Sometimes it’s simply a spectator’s empathetic look or a friendly wave during a difficult and lonely long run.
I asked runners from across the country to share their memories. I was touched by the outpouring of stories and reminded again how a simple kindness can make a huge difference in another’s life.
Kirby Adams of WHAS Team Crusade, shared that when she first started running, Peggy Kokernaut took her from “a know-nothing, running in a bathing suit and sneakers” and turned her into a runner. She remembers Peggy as the most generous human being she has ever known.
“It wasn’t coaching or anything like that, but just pure kindness, fun and encouragement,” recalls Adams. “Her spirit is what I have in turn tried to pass on the teams I work with in Louisville.”
Adams also remembers that when she was single and racing bicycles, she wore tight Lycra suits. Her maiden name was Oliver. A little boy would always come out and cheer for her. After awhile, Kirby realized that he wasn’t yelling, “Go Kirby Oliver” but “Go curvy all-over.” This was not only encouraging but also made her laugh each time she passed him.
Joe Nail reflects on the time when he was suffering side stitches during the final run leg of the National Duathlon Championships.
“A 61-year old man from Texas spoke with me for the duration of the race, where I was giving up and planning to finish walking, and he encouraged me to keep running,” he recalls. “I placed somewhere around 20th but you know I was passed by many who never uttered a word.”
Usually when someone impacts our life, we are more apt to want to pass the kindness on to someone else. Most of the runners who shared their stories believe in the importance of helping other runners because of how much the support meant to them.
“When I started running marathons in college, I had (and still have) the best fan club ever,” said Kristen Harvey, a six-time marathoner. “My friends always do something amazing like sneak in my room and fill it with balloons and streamers saying, ‘You can do it under 4 hours’ or ‘You’re amazing.’ Sometimes they make T-shirts that say, ‘Kristen’s Fan Club’ and plot out the course to figure how many spots they can hit to cheer me on. I think they usually get more of a workout than me. They’re the best friends ever. They have motivated me to keep running and in return I have motivated some of them to start running.”
Debbie LaMarche’s best memory was a simple “thumbs up” gesture from a very old man who looked to be in his 80’s. He came out on the porch and when he signaled, she wondered if he used to race himself years ago.
Likewise, Ken Jackson believes that the most meaningful part of his running has been more from people being there than what was said---the people he has met, with whom he shared the road.
“The miles melt away so fast when you are out there with someone,” says Jackson. “They may have been a few yards or a few miles ahead, but they were out there. We may not have been speaking or saying a whole lot, but the melting of souls on the street was more meaningful than words can express. These days when I run by myself, I fondly remember some of those wonderful runs with my friends. A smile will come over my face and I know that they are with me. Even though they are thousands of miles away, they have given me so much inspiration and encouragement that I will be forever grateful.”
Dave Laumeyer shares his memory of the last lap of a Duathlon when he wanted to stop. His girlfriend, who had driven three hours to cheer him on, told him he looked great and helped to motivate him and push him to continue. On the bike leg, he recalls looking down at the top tube to read the decal “Just for Justin” posted in loving memory of his best friend Justin Jewell, who had a passion for running but was diagnosed with Rhabdosarcoma, passing away just one year later. Racing in memory of him keeps Laumeyer strong through all his training.
Susan Bradley-Cox remembers running in Ironman Hawaii years ago when she began to fade at the turn-around point.
“I must have mumbled that I was struggling and was not sure I could finish,” she reflects. “The Pro-triathlete I was running with off and on, told me to dig deep and keep going and that I would make it. I kept repeating those words and I did make it.”
While running his first marathon, the Marine Corp, Gerry Barker remembers looking for his family, stationed at the midway point.
“When I heard and saw my 17-year old daughter at mile 13, my eyes filled with tears of joy,” he said. “I ran over and ‘high-fived’ her then kept going a few yards where I saw my wife and sister-in-law. I got a big charge from that, but the best was yet to come at mile 23. There I saw my wife and daughter enthusiastically yelling amongst the crowd. But when I spied my brother and Mom, I ran over and gave her a big hug. I was so excited that my family came to watch me run, along with the thousands of other spectators. It’s so cool when the people you love support your races.”
Tim Yount also remembers the strength of family support at the state track meet his junior year of high school.
“I was starting our 4 X 800 meter relay team,” says Yount. “As I was setting up in our blocks, I heard my dad yell at me something very simple yet effective, ‘make us proud son.’ I remember smiling to myself knowing that any performance that I considered my best would qualify just knowing my parents. It was strange because we were in a huge stadium and the only comment I remember hearing was my dad. The gun sounded a minute later. It has been 25 years but I still recall the impact that had on my race. I ran my personal best and we won the state title with a record setting time that stood for a decade.”
What Yount doesn’t know is how countless athletes from Team USA responded that he, as team manager, was their greatest encourager. Year after year, he cheered us on by name, as enthusiastically for the stragglers as for the front-runners, making each person believe they were a significant part of the team.
Anne Ellacott’s memory is of the Gulf Coast Half-Ironman---where at 107 degrees, hot steam was coming off the asphalt.
“I was slowly petering,” she says in retrospect. “About mile 5, a very tall guy came up beside me on the run. Each of his steps was easily two or three of mine. I told him that I wasn’t feeling well and that my stomach was a mess from the heat and swallowing salt water. He started talking to me and never stopped, helping me hold a steady 7:15 pace all the way. With a mile left, I suggested picking up the pace and he agreed. I looked for him at the finish but never found him. Without him that day, I would never have been able to keep going. I was 2nd in my age group, only a minute behind the leader. I will never know if that was really an angel or just a great man, but he saved my life.”
In Awaken the Giant Within, Anthony Robbins says that “only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.” He urges that “instead of looking for heroes, we should become one.”
Never-the-less, David Gassman considers his running partner, Jamie Weedman, a hero. Jamie is blind and his efforts inspire everyone they pass, and motivate Gassman to pick up the pace. He also enjoys cheers from the man dressed as Superman at mile five of the Mini-Marathon, as well as from all the spectators along the way.
“Understanding that it is difficult to be a spectator at a road race, is maybe why the encouragement from the spectators and volunteers is heard and appreciated by us runners,” he says. “We know “it’s a running thing… they might not understand’ but they cheer for us anyway.”
I have always believed my life purpose was to encourage and inspire others to be the best they can be. A reaffirmation came unexpectedly while working on this column from two women I’ve coached in the past.
Wanda Karia said, “Constant encouragement and support from fellow triathletes is the rule and not the exception and a big part of why I love the sport so much. Seeing you when I came out of the water at Buckeye Challenge, hearing the cowbell and your reminders to keep my head up and breath on the run are just a few examples of how you have helped me. And the rubber ducky (he sings and dances “Splish Splash”) at Seneca Park in the downpour is also a special memory.”
And finally, Sylvia Kamp shared, “I was not much of a high school runner but there was a coach from Centre College who recruited me to run. Throughout the entire time I ran for her, she always led me to believe that I could be a successful runner.
Unfortunately, I only had the chance to run for her one year, but it was perhaps the most important year to have her as a coach,” said Kamp. “Not only did I have a successful freshman year, but I learned that running can and should be enjoyable. Ten years later, that coach is the reason I am the person that I am. I am now a collegiate coach myself, hoping to provide the same inspiration and memories to other collegiate runners. In my “spare time” I am very realistically training for the Olympic Trials in the marathon. This is from someone who refused to run the 3200 meter in high school because it was too long. No words can express how much Coach Cheryl Hart means to me.”
This was her gift to me.
Coincidently I glanced at my horoscope today, and found: “While your earnings are how you make a living, your contributions are how you make a life. Pay more attention to the latter now.” In summary, let’s remember Goethe’s teaching: “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.”