Learning from High School Freshman

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to help out Dr. Richard Hansen’s high school team, Peak 2 Peak, at their first cross country scrimmage of the season in Lyons, Colorado.  Only part of the team raced and the rest did a workout beforehand.  Their workout was a long progression run of up to 9 miles.  I was amazed by how much effort these kids put into the workout.  One kid was breathing really heavily within the first mile, yet ran the entire distance without complaining.  A freshman really impressed me as he did 8 miles (freshman were not allowed to do 9).  During these 8 miles he feel off the pace about half a dozen times.  Yet when the captains on the team or I turned and yelled encouragements, he quickly caught back up.  I’ve seen way too many times people give up when they fall of the pace, but this freshman was resilient and fought back multiple times.  If you have read the book, Brain Training by Matt Fitzgerald, you would know that Fitzgerald believes we are limited in our abilities by our brain shutting down the muscles to prevent death.  This makes some sense because running hard hurts and the brain doesn’t want us to die, so it will stop us before this point.  Fitzgerald’s training system teaches the brain to push harder since we are FAR from death when running hard; thus, tempos, farleks, and other workouts are not as much physiological (mental) as they as psychological (physical).   The freshman Eric proved that we can “dig a little deeper” than we think.

Another great story from the weekend was a freshman on the Estes Park boys high school team.  The coach, Bill Ruth, used to coach at a neighboring high school to me in eastern PA.   The race finished on the track, so we were able to see his guys finish the last 400meters or so.  This freshman was in about 20th place and really fought hard at the end and passed 2-3 people (all that were within range)  in the final straightaway.  When he came across the finish line, he put both hands up in triumph!  It was one of those times when you get chills up your spine because of an athletic achievement.  That was true spirit, determination, and passion that last 100 meters.  He deserved to put his arms up regardless of what place he finished.  It was a lesson in being fully engaged and loving what you are doing AND rewarding yourself afterwards.

This reminds me of a run I used to do from my home in eastern PA.  Starting at my driveway you run to the top of Blue Mountain on Smith Gap Road in Moore Township to the Appalachian trail, turn around and come back.  As you can see by the elevation change on mapmyrun.com, there is a mile section that averages about 11% grade. I’ve done this run with multiple friends, including Jeremy Matula – my pick to win the VIA Half-Marathon in the Lehigh Valley next weekend.  Every single time I do this run, I put up my hands at the turn around point like I won a race and make whoever is with me do the same.  This run is tough, and if you’re not walking you’re hurting.  You need to reward yourself after working hard and doing your best – never forget it!

Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment on the site about how you reward yourself after doing your best or any inspirational stories where you or someone you know “found that extra gear.”

Living the dream,



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