Tribute To My Runners

Posted: February 4, 2013 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 17 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 17 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.

  1. Jimmy Gonzalez says:

    I stumbled upon your posts almost 4 weeks ago and I’m so glad I did. Don’t plan on running Boston–or any other marathon–but I find that so much of what you write is applicable to other endeavors. Just want you to know how much I appreciate what you do. Thank you !!!

  2. Barbara says:

    This is a great post, Rick! Thanks!

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