Saturday, August 20, 2011


I see a lot of potential in a lot of young runners. What separates the ones who approach their potential from the ones who leave people scratching their heads, thinking they really should have run faster? Of all the freshman who run decent times, why do some go on to championships and college athletics while others stagnate. I suppose there are scores of reasons but lately I have come to focus on two that I think might just encapsulate most of the others. If I could choose any two traits for a runner I was going to coach, they would be Pride and Identity. These two would need to then be melded into one, pride in the identity they have chosen, pridentity. What does this mean, pridentity, and it is really necessary invent yet another compound word? Well, I recently saw the word ginormous and instantly had the picture of something bigger than either giant or enormous could convey. After sufficient explanation, I would hope that pridentity would elicit an image far more clear than than the sum of its parts. To start with, a runner needs to have the identity of a runner. This is overlooked by far too many coaches. I have seen so many coaches striking deals with football players, soccer players, basketball players, rugby players, in order to get them to turn out for track or cross country. These people who run are never runners. Not really. That's not their identity. They're interlopers. They're aliens. They're straight out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers who appear just like all the runners, but as soon as the coach falls asleep, they infect the rest of the team with the idea that running isn't really that important. Let's run to the courts and shoot some hoop. Let's toss around a football during the meet. Running isn't that big a deal. Racing is something to be endured in order to try to get another letter, in order to stay in shape for the real sports. Soon the team is bigger than ever and thus diluted and the coach deluded to think he has accomplished something by getting those few "stars" to run while not realizing  a good coach doesn't need talent to walk on the team; he needs to develop runners who may or may not have talent to beat the ringers from every other team. This is not to say I don't appreciate a good scavenging of other sports. The difference is, I don't want to borrow them, I want to steal them. At least for the season, these people who run will be runners. They will have the identity of runners. If they do not, they will not last long. Once they have the identity of runners, as seeing themselves as runners, as caring about their success in running, then and only then can they take pride in their running.
Pride alone will not necessarily lead to success in running. In fact, pride can really sidetrack a good runner when misdirected. Pride, true pride, not bravado, leads to a certain indifference towards things not encompassed by the source of the pride. If I consider myself a soccer player, I can get last in a race and it affects my pride not in the least. If I am caught up in my popularity, a D on a test means nothing to me. You need to identify with the aspect you have pride in or the pride is useless. Pridentity! There's my athlete. I don't care if she comes in as an eight minute miler or if he runs twenty minutes for 5k as a freshman. If either of these two runners takes pride in their identities as runners they will succeed as runners. Does this mean they will get scholarships or win state titles. Not necessarily. But they will fulfill their potential as runners which is more important and oftentimes actually does coincide with more tangible success. Perhaps more importantly, these are team savers, team builders. Every athlete that looks like a complete loss as a freshman and makes improvement through pridentity is worth fifty mercenaries. I have happily taken the misfits and watched them build a team that embarrasses the interlopers many times. The best thing is watching the non runners start to get it. There's no debating about starting position, no coaches' pets, no increased playing time based on nepotism. There is only the cold hard translation of work into success, judged by numbers that are not by vote and not aided by assists. The  outsider will never get passed the ball even if he can shoot the lights out from beyond the arc. The outsider doesn't need a pass to drop a 4:30 first mile and leave the pack  wondering what just happened to their plans. Some of the mercenaries get this and cross to the dark side, our side. They want to maximize their talent. they have pride in being the best they can be and realize that running is their path to that. They are the converts. They kind of back in to pridentity but they get there just the same. Most likely, they are going to a big college for free and traveling around the country to compete while all of their former big sports teammates and checking the local college intramural basketball or soccer schedule. They are racking up the all state honors and championships while their former friends are hoping their coach is popular enough to influence the voting to honorable mention in their tiny conference in their tiny corner of their tiny pond. The best part is, they were probably inspired by someone whom they never would have talked to in their former life. Pridentity is contagious. Those who identify as runners with pride manifest results that often infect those around them. This is how teams are built. This is the foundation of success. A handful of runts who know who they are and won't accept compromise will not only trump an army of pretenders, but will get a fair amount of defections as well.


  1. Love this post especially this line: "There is only the cold hard translation of work into success, judged by numbers that are not by vote and not aided by assists." But for the sake of my eyes, put some paragraphs in there. Ha ha.

  2. Yeah, seriously. Paragraphs. And maybe a proofread. But it is great stuff.

  3. Good call guys. This is stream of consciousness stuff so it's raw. Anything I write looks like this at first so I get the ideas down, then I go back and proofread if it's actual submission stuff but for some reason I haven't been cleaning up the blog.