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Begin With The End...Leaving A Legacy On The Trails

I watched Gavin Nelson’s final race as a high school athlete last night.  Seeing him split 4:10 in the 1600m on his way to a Mustang-never-before-experienced 4:12 mile had me reflecting on the past and the path to excellence. And, while I have said that Gavin was a Mustang Generational Athlete, the more I think about his path to success, the more I look back at the he that he was.  He was normal. He was young and immature. He was ordinary. He was you.

I just re-read a note from Gavin that I recently received, and want to share some of his reflections. He wrote about me: “when I joined the team four years ago, you were scary and mean. I hated how I could never miss practice, I could never be late and no matter how bad I was feeling I could never cut a run, even by a few minutes.” I find that to be an often and typical thought from new runners coming into our program. But those that grow and develop take that concept to heart and learn that winning does not begin with the starter’s pistol. It begins with the first steps and the realization that being a great athlete is about being ready. Being present. And fighting the urge to take a short cut to the end.

Racing in cross-country is one 20 minute piece in a season of practice and training. It is a target, but it is a minor event in the course of our 25 week season. Maximizing your potential requires you to focus on the goal of every practice and to celebrate the work put in to every 2-hour practice, knowing that you will come back again tomorrow to face another 2-hour challenge. Again…from Gavin:  “When I won the first big race of the season…I was so excited. I came to talk to you after and you kept me level-headed and humble. You reminded me that I had another race and that celebrating on the track is not tolerated.”

The path to success is littered with many downs, and many ups. Your challenge is to learn to embrace the aches and pains, to recognize that there are pockets of good in every workout and in every race. The ending moment or the finish of the race is not what matters. The way to imprint who you are and what you accomplished is by focusing on how you get there. Your steps echo on our practice trails.

Leave a legacy. Leave footprints. Follow the footsteps of those who have run before and make a difference. One step at a time.

See you on the trails. 


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