I ran my first race while in 6th grade, a half-mile race that took place at San Mateo High School. I was so far back in DFL (Dead Flat Last) that the announcer had to warn the people setting up for the next race, "Hold on, people – there's still one more runner on the track!" I figured running was just not my sport.
Fast forward a few years, to my junior and senior years in high school. Things weren’t a whole lot better, in terms of performance. I racked up 19 DFLs in only two seasons of track & field, which is probably a record! But something was different: I loved it! I distinctly remember my first track meet, which was just a non-league pre-season meet, with about four people in the stands. Yes, I did indeed finish DFL in my half-mile race, but the atmosphere made me feel like I was in the Olympics!
I jogged when I could during college, and then decided to train for a
marathon in 1984. I ran the Livermore Marathon, and did much better
than expected. During that year, I began running with a running club
at Stanford University, where I worked, called the Angell Field Ancients (see photo to the left, but please don't emulate that heel-striking form - yikes!).
The club included a wide range of abilities, from joggers all the way to
Olympians and American record-holders. Once I truly learned how to
train from listening to these great people (all of them), my times started
to come down, and I began enjoying everything about running even more.
I was even the recipient of the Ancients' prestigious Golden Jock Award
in 1989. No, really, it is quite prestigious.
In 1988, I won a race for the first time (a small 5k trail race), and had a stellar year, setting most of my all-time personal bests that still stand today. Over the next 15 years or so, I continued to enjoy running and compete in races of many different types, including track races ranging from 60 meters up through the mile, cross-country races, and lots and lots of road races. In 2004, having finally recovered from a badly sprained ankle and related injuries, I decided to train for another marathon, my first since 1987. My training went exactly according to plan, and I may have had my best race ever: I set a 6-minute all-time personal best of a hair under 3:13, only a few days after my 43rd birthday.
While I continued to enjoy running throughout the 2000s, something was missing. I had coached many friends and family members informally since the late 1980s, but had not tried anything more formal. When my son joined the cross-country team at his high school in the Fall of 2009, I offered to be the "helpful parent", shadowing the head coach to help him with timing, driving kids to workouts, etc. At the end of the season, he asked if I would come on board as an official Assistant Coach the following year. How could I refuse?! I joined the coaching staff, and am now the Head Coach of the Track & Field team. I loved it from the start, and knew that coaching was my destiny, so I started Be The Runner in 2012.
From the variety of people I have coached, I have learned there is no "one size fits all" approach to succeed in any kind of running. Many generic "training plans" may work to enable runners to survive a half marathon or marathon, for example. But a unique, flexible plan, tailored to a runner's strengths, weaknesses, schedule, lifestyle, and even personality, is orders of magnitude better than the generic approach. I love working with runners to achieve whatever their goals are. Running is a sport that provides rare opportunities for everyone to experience a huge sense of accomplishment, regardless of ability. Being a part of someone else's success is a thrill for me!