Recently, I was informed that my high-school basketball coach was being honored and having the court named after him. I was asked to write a letter describing some of the lessons I learned from being a part of my high-school basketball program (sigh... 20 years ago). I detailed the characteristics I felt team members developed by being part of that prestigious program and from being taught by an amazing coach. Upon re-reading that letter, I came to realize that each of the characteristics I described translated over to distance running. Here, this creates the chicken or the egg dilemma. Do I run because I have these characteristics, or have I developed some of these traits BECAUSE I run? This may not the forum to figure that out. However, I do find the similarity of these two endeavors interesting, especially since I did not start running long distance until 2007 (long, long after high school). I’ve made some edits to a portion of the original letter.
What characteristics do you feel contribute to your running? Did you already possess those characteristics, or did you acquire them through running?
#1. Maximum Effort
The subtext in any
Vinson Tiger practice or game was race is always "Maximum Effort". If you wanted to make the team had have a chance.
#2. The Preparation Of The Plan Should Be Harder Than The Actual Execution
Conditioning drills would precede scrimmages, which preceded more conditioning drills, which preceded shooting drills, which preceded conditioning drills… and so on. I clearly remember countless "hard" practices. I don’t remember that many "hard" games. For months we will run 20-50 miles a week for a single 13.1 or 26.2 mile race. We may incorporate speed drills, lift weights, and sweat through 90 degree temperatures for a race on a cool morning.
#3. Use Your Strengths to Compensate For Your Weaknesses
In my three years of time on the varsity team, the average height of the team had to have been around than 6’0". Of course, if you believe the heights that Coach ***** tended to put in the programs, many of us were about 6’2" or 6’3" and I became a couple of inches shorter between my junior and senior years. Regardless, height was never and adequate excuse. If you are small – be quick. If you are slow – be smart. If you can’t score – play defense. If you can’t play defense – well… you WILL play defense. If speed isn’t your thing, endurance may be. If endurance isn’t your strong suit, perhaps shorter races are your thing. If mental toughness isn’t your thing… well… you’ll probably need that.
#4. Play Like Your Life Depends On It – But, Remember It Doesn’t
When report cards came out, the coaches wanted to see them. If you had a personal issue, the coaches would help you. The game was always a life lesson, but it wasn’t life. Run like hell. But, don’t kill yourself out there!
#5. Perseverance Trumps Natural Ability
Vinson had approximately 400 students when I attended. Out of those 400, a handful of us were fortunate enough to play varsity basketball. Most of us were not incredible athletes, did not go on to play in college, and did not win individual awards. However, we are left with the memories of defeating teams that represented schools three times our size, who had athletes bigger and more skilled than us, often in front of hostile crowds. We won – because we expected to win. We won – because we did not see size or skill in our opponents. We won – because winning had become the reflex to the impact of our shoes hitting the court. It was simply what we were taught to do. Some of the greatest young athletes I ever met are currently overweight dreamers who wasted their natural abilities. Many of us still run and live healthy lives and have a mental edge because of the peace of mind we get from running. Most of us will never win a race. But… we’re still running. It’s what we do and that kind of perseverance defines us.