I know you may not ever guess it by looking at us now in our middle age physiques, but for my wife and I, running and the sport of Track & Field was a big part of our life and is actually responsible for us meeting, falling in love and eventually getting married.
I was a Senior and she was a Sophomore at Madison High School in Rexburg, Idaho. I was one of the bigger “field event” guys who threw the Shot Put and Discus,
while she was a tremendous runner and all-around athlete, who excelled in the hurdles. In fact the only event I ever ran in was a race I don’t think they even do anymore, “The Fat Man’s Relay”! It was like a token event at the end of the track meet, where all the big bubbas who threw shot and discus formed teams to compete in a 4x100 relay!
Normally the weight event guys were relegated to ambiguity off behind the stadium hurling heavy implements while grunting and shouting like ancient warriors, where nobody in the stands ever got to see us perform.
But at the conclusion of all the actual scored running events, they would allow the big dudes to gather for the Fat-Man relay. All the other runners and competitors were already finished and so everyone watched, laughed, cheered and screamed as we lumbered around the track in our competition. It was awesome!
I was always the anchor leg for our big-guy relay, and sprinted the final 100 meters to the finish line. With all the cheers and adulation (which was probably more like laughter, but I couldn’t ever tell through all my exertion and heavy breathing), it felt like sprinting down the home stretch in the Olympics. In one race, another bubba from a rival school had about a 10 meter lead on me when I received the baton, gradually closing the gap I pushed myself to the max (which was kind of like flooring a Hummer – lots of power, but not a lot of top end speed). As we neared the finish line we were neck and neck, and as if the fate of the world hung in the balance I threw myself forward in a lunging dive to cross the tape in first place. The victory was short lived as I tumbled and skidded down the track resulting in moderate to severe road rash, but otherwise avoiding any serious injury.
My wife on the other hand was simply awesome! Her senior season she was an UNDEFEATED District & State Champion in the hurdles!
In fact, after nearly 27 years, she still holds the Madison High School record for that event! She went on to run on a track scholarship for Ricks College as was a Junior College All-American as a freshman in the 100 meter hurdles!
How we met back in high school was kind of interesting however. Although we were both on the track team at the same school, we didn’t really know each other very well. I was friends with her older brother who was my age, and knew who she was, but we had never really talked much throughout the year. She actually had another boyfriend who was a distance runner on the team, but he didn’t run well enough to qualify for the State meet in Boise. I had won the district championship in the discus, and my wife had qualified in the high jump (She didn’t begin running hurdles until later on).
As we loaded the bus to drive from Rexburg to Boise for the state meet, we had too many kids to fit on the bus, so they asked me and another senior boy to ride in a van with some of the coaches. My wife had forgotten something at home and was late getting back and missed the bus, so the coaches waited and she and another girl road with us in the van all the way across the state. We talked, chatted and had a fun time. At the meet, both of our events were on the morning of the first day of the meet, so for the next two days we hung out together, went out to eat, watched some guy at lunch accidentally shove a straw up his nose, and had a lot of fun, in addition to watching and cheering on our teammates in their events.
When we returned home 3 days later, she dumped her old boyfriend, and we dated for 8 months until I went on my mission. When I returned home after 2 years, she was standing next to my parents at the airport and the rest is history!
Our 2nd son, Tyler, followed in his mother’s footsteps as he got into high school and under the coaching of his mom, became a very gifted hurdler. He was a two-time District Champion in the 300 hurdles and two time state finalist. (In center below)
His junior year he was in a literal photo finish and took 2nd place by .01 seconds. (In the picture below, he is 3rd from the right in the blue)
He ran so smooth, quick and gracefully that watching him was like what a lumbering thug like me can only dream of doing! He also still holds the school record at Sugar Salem High School in the 300 hurdles and in the 4x400 relay. I will include a video of a few of his races here:
He received several track scholarship offers for college, but when he informed the schools that he would be leaving after his freshman season to serve a 2 year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, all of them rescinded their offers. Nonetheless, I am proud of his decision to be open and honest with those Universities and that he put the Lord first in going on his mission.
But I didn’t really write this blog today to brag about how awesome my wife and son are (although I love doing that and my other two boys are just as equally awesome as well), but rather to write about a different runner, who I never even met personally, but who affected my life in a profound way!
It was 2009 and we were at the Idaho state high school track finals being held at Boise State University. Our son was competing there, but the runner I will reference today was not in the same events as our son.
It was the 100 meter dash finals, where fierce and speedy competitors give their all to prove who is the fastest man in the state! As I looked down at the 8 competitors who were preparing down by the starting line, there was one young man from Nampa Christian, a smaller school, who called out and motioned for all the other competitors to come and gather together. He had them huddle in a circle and they all put their arms around each other’s shoulders as he bowed his head in what I can only assume was a prayer for safety and that each competitor would be able to perform their best.
What happened next took me by even greater surprise. As they approached the starting line, I noticed this young man was assigned to lane #4, which is usually reserved for the fastest qualifying runner from the preliminary rounds. I quickly glanced in the program and realized that he was the returning state champion from the previous year. I can still remember his full name, although since I don’t have his permission I will only call him Mike.
As he stepped up to the line, he picked up his starting blocks and set them back several feet behind himself and stepped up to the line standing upright. As the other runners got down into their block and coiled like cats waiting to spring, he only leaned forward on his feet.
When the gun went off, all the competitors raced down the track at full speed, but this returning champion, hindered by the lack of starting blocks… finished in last place. He then joyfully congratulated the other runners and the new champion for that year.
To be completely honest, I don’t have any idea who actually won the race that day. But I know for a fact which young man was winning the race of life!!! Already a champion, Mike realized that being a real winner in life is centered not in our own glory or achievement, but in helping others to rise to their potential and achieve success!
I learned a great lesson that day, from a young high school kid, which has greatly benefitted me over the years since, and one that we could all stand to learn from.
We live in a day and age when married couples divorce and throw away their vows of commitment at an alarming rate! Where business competitors and politicians slander and throw mud at each other in attempt to prove they are #1, only to come across as childish, greedy, self-centered and immature.
Couldn’t we all stand to learn that in the race of life together, rather than fueling our selfish and competitive desires to win each argument, prove we are right, and try to raise ourselves up by putting our others down only shows how weak and lacking in control we really are?
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could all look at each other as children of God and the potential champions that we are destined to become? If we were more motivated to serve and lift others up to higher ground I’m sure we would find ourselves standing much higher in the end as well.So let’s all learn a lesson from Mike, and make an effort to be a little more aware of those around us, a little more confident in ourselves and our standing and worth, no matter what the outcome, and with the knowledge that through service and charity, we become true champions in the race of life that we all run together!