Tribute To My Runners!

Posted: March 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

I commented recently that several of my Marathon Coalition runners mentioned there would be a huge void in their lives once the marathon is over.  There will actually be an even bigger void in my life.  I certainly have so much abundance in my life (i.e., family, friends, work, interests, etc.) to focus on after the training season concludes.  But coaching marathon runners has been such an integral part of who I am for the past 15 years.

I never imagined that I would ever become a coach.  When I lost my mom to leukemia in 1996 at only 57 years old, little did I realize that my last conversation with her would lead to my coaching.  I promised her that I would commit myself to doing something significant with my life, something that would make her proud.  I ran the Ocean State marathon in Rhode Island shortly after I returned to New England after her funeral.  That is when my focus began to shift to thinking about others.

Serendipitously, there were Leukemia Society of America signs along the entire marathon course.  I called the executive director of the Leukemia Society of America the following day and shared my story.  That was the beginning of what has become one of the most amazing journeys of my life.

I began to speak in front of large groups of people about losing my mom.  I shared my last conversation with her and my commitment to honoring her memory.  It was very emotional but I soon became comfortable with just speaking from my heart.

I struggled with giving oral book reports in school and always considered myself relatively shy so standing before a group was something I wasn’t comfortable with.  I suddenly found myself eager (albeit nervous) to open my heart and share my emotions with so many.  Losing mom changed my life considerably.  I began to realize the importance of giving to others.  It was an epiphany to realize I actually thought less about myself when I focused on others.  I also realized that I had the unique opportunity to inspire people to do far more than attempt to complete a marathon. 

I was the first coach of many of my runners…they had never been on a sports team.  When you have someone say, ‘ I have never had anyone say they believe in me!’, you begin to view your role very differently.  I realized that I also had the opportunity to motivate and inspire people to believe they were capable of achieving far more than they ever imagined!

The boxes of cards and letters that I’ve received during the past 15 years are the ultimate validation of the unique opportunity I’ve been given.  It’s an opportunity to honor my mom’s memory in a significant way and to establish a legacy of helping others…that’s important to me. 

None of this would have been possible without Lori.  We met shortly after I began coaching and her example of selflessness dramatically influenced my coaching and my view of the world…my view of myself!  She has stood in my shadow for far too long but I’ve never forgotten that I owe who I am today to her.  I also have been deeply influenced by all the runners that I’ve coached.

To witness thousands of runners commit themselves to making a significant difference in the world has changed my life.  I survived in a world of selfishness most of my life…coaching charity runners has dramatically changed that.  I’ve seen countless runners, who couldn’t complete one lap of running on a local track when training began, become marathoners in less than 5 months.  And they were able to accomplish that because they were so committed to helping others and making a difference in their lives.

Charity runners have a higher completion rate in the marathon than any other group.  That’s undoubtedly due to their commitment to serving others.  The marathon becomes far less about them than it is to fulfilling a commitment to the charity they’re representing. 

Completing a marathon training season is bittersweet for me.  The pride that I feel for each of my runners is immeasurable.  The sadness of knowing I may never say many of them again is something I don’t like to consider.  But I find considerable comfort in the knowledge that I’ve been given a unique gift of being their coach and I’ve given my absolute best effort to them.  My greatest hope is that I’ve instilled in each of them a belief that they can accomplish ANYTHING they commit themselves to and believe in.

I’m not looking forward to this amazing journey of training for the Boston Marathon to be over.  But I am looking forward to observing the  impact that this experience has had on each member of the Marathon Coalition TEAM!

  1. Ryan says:

    And we are grateful for your time, inspiration and dedication!

    • Thank you, Ryan. This Marathon Coalition TEAM has been so special…there’s a spirit about all of you that inspires me to bring my A game every week. You all deserve the best I can offer!


  2. Mags says:

    Everyone is asking me more recently “how is the training going” and I reply “it’s bittersweet, its coming to an end.” Sigh…. I’ll miss being on this team!

  3. Hello Maggie,

    Every incredible journey must come to an end…but the impact of what’s occurred along the way will remain with you forever!

    You’ve brought a great spirit to this endeavor…that will serve you well in life!

    Coach Rick

  4. This has been the first time I’ve run with a team since high scool and it’s been a great learning and running experience! Thank you Rick for your hard work and inspiration. I’ll be joining you and the team in spirit today as I’m in Marrakesh, Morocco. Running here has been quite different and difficult here. This certainly isn’t Newton (got to watch out for the stray dogs, camels, goats, and sheep.) nThe long run will be a challenge today with temps in the upper 80’s and no helpful Coalition water stops … and a wonderful team that inspires me that’ll be running thousands of miles away across the Atlantic. Good Luck to everyone today!!!

    • Hello Steve,

      We missed you today. Jillian commented about how touched she was that you returned to the course two weeks ago to bring her in. It was raining and she was experiencing a difficult period when you arrived to lift her spirits. That’s the TEAM spirit that inspires me to be the best possible coach to all of you. I ran quite a bit in Saudi Arabia so I can appreciate the challenges of running in Morocco. BTW, I’ve had 4 views today from Morocco on my blog…thanks for spreading the word 🙂

      I’ll look forward to seeing you next week for the 21 miler!


  5. Hi Rick,  Had an incredibly hot mid-day run … solidly in the 90’s.  Was slightly harrassed by some local teenagers on a motor bike in the middle of nowhere.  Sped up quite a bit to get onto a road.  Still haven’t rehydrated properly yet despite drinking an amazing amount of water.  

    Couldn’t imagine doing long runs every day in this weather in Saudi Arabia … short runs are OK but as you approach two hours your body just doesn’t feel like it should from the heat and loss of water.

    Glad the Coalition’s run went well today.  You’ve infused a great team spirit into the crew … they’re going to do great things on April 16th!  (Almost stepped on a monkey in the Marrakesh Medina tonight … and there were Cobras!)

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