I started the sport of running freshman year of high school and 14 years later I’m enjoying it more than ever before. I joined the track team with the goal of getting in shape for soccer. I barely qualified for the league meet in the 3200m run, but I ran my heart out to finish 4th. After that race I had upperclassmen and coaches telling me “I could be the next Mike Vidumsky,” who was the school record holder in the 3200m run (9:21). That’s all it took for me to be inspired and excited for the sport of long distance running. I had the opportunity to compete (high school track/cross country), people that believed in me (friends, family, coaches), and I had someone to look up to (Vidumsky). Three years and one week after that race, I ran 9:13 to break that school record.
Elite-Athelets-Giving-BackThe sport makes it easy to over-analyze because it is a numbers driven sport: distance, time, pace, weekly mileage, heart rate, etc, etc. However, instead of focusing on the numbers, I focus on the purity of the sport I had in high school: here’s a goal, let’s try to accomplish it through consistent, hard work… AND fun! Most elite athletes go through a period in their careers where they struggle with overanalyzing and sometimes even the financial struggles of trying to be a ‘professional’ runners. My career, and my life, took a turn for the better when I spent more time and energy giving back to youth running. I became a high school coach and connected with The Kauai Marathon in establishing Youth Running Programs on the island. With very few road races on Kauai, I felt many of the kids lacked the opportunities to run, the people that believed in them (from having a significant running community), and the runners to look up to.
I won The Kauai Marathon for three consecutive years and the aloha spirit of the island always brought me back to the mainland a happier and healthier person. This year I asked the race director and race founder if I could run the half-marathon and raise money to fund youth running programs on the island instead of defending my title in the marathon. It was one of the best decisions of my life. In the two weeks I spent on Kauai, I partnered with a family medical doctor from the non-profit Healthy Learning Paths and together we presented to several hundred elementary kids on the benefits of proper nutrition, sleep and exercise. I joined a high school team for several runs and helped start an afterschool mentorship program between the high school team and two different elementary schools. In addition, we put on a Keiki (kids) race with over 125 participants and we are working on organizing a mile race in the spring that will be free for Kauai youth. In the half-marathon, I raised donations depending on how fast I could run the half-marathon. One hour and seven minutes later I had helped raise approximately $5,000 for Kauai youth running programs.
The beauty of our sport is anyone can help grow it and make a positive impact on the world through exercise. As a running community, together we can provide the people to look up to, the opportunities to compete, and the running community who believe in each other’s goals and dreams. Why not make the world a healthier and happier place one kid at a time, while in the same time keeping the purity in the sport for yourself?