Running was an escape for me. I could get lost in a different world just by running, especially on the trails. There were fire roads, and single tracks and I could feel the hot wind hit my face. It would make you want to yell “Weeeeeeee” all the time you were running.
In the olden days, before shopping centers and large churches took over the north valley, the space was just a vast expanse of hills, valleys, and trails. I could ride my dirt bike or run and never see another soul.
Over the years, the trails were replaced with shopping centers, homes, apartments and Shepherd of the Hills Church, but when I started running, it was just a giant playground of trails.
I had embraced this running thing and to prep for my 8th grade running season, I decided to log some serious miles – 400 miles – to be exact.
Over the course of 12 weeks, my dad and I would rise early, lace up the running shoes and hit the streets. The morning light was still waking up as I headed up the same hill every morning. Each day I would try and break my previous best record over the same distance.
During this time, I was supremely focused. I had a mission, and a goal and I was going after it. It was during one of these morning runs that Granada Hills High School tried to recruit me to run for their team, but I was already committed to L.A. Baptist when I started high school.
When the summer concluded, and I tallied my final mile, I had reached 400 miles. Since that time, I have yet to reach the same summer mileage (even when I ran in high school), but it is great to look back on a huge goal realized.
Humboldt State Running Camp
During my summer of epic running, I was invited to attend an exclusive running camp at Humboldt State University with some high school runners from L.A. Baptist. We hit the road in a motor home and disappeared into another whole world as far as I was concerned.
I think I was the second youngest runner in the camp, and many of the high school kids took me under their wing. We lived in dorms, ate in the cafeteria, and worked out two to three times per day.
Running Terminology: A fartlek (Swedish for “speed play”) is a tempo run with surges of up to one minute thrown in every few minutes to simulate the changing of race speeds.
Looking back on my experience, the lessons I learned at this camp shaped my future coaching career. To this day, I can look at a runner's form and know what isn't working and how to fix it.
It might have been overwhelming at the time, but looking back I would not change a thing. I was a better coach and runner because of this experience. And this is why I love trail running so much more than streets.
When I started running in 6th grade, my first real coach was Don Vulich. He was a coach with the Northridge Pacers. He was a man who ran for the sheer joy and love of running. He liked to win, but it was not everything.
Don's investment in me from sixth to eighth grade as a person and a runner helped shape who I would become as a coach. He showed me that if you took the time to know someone, you could pull the very best out of them in running and as a person.
His legacy is seen every day in the way I coached my athletes, how I worked with youth at my church and the interactions I have with my colleagues and friends.
The greatest lesson I learned during this summer wasn't that I could run 400 miles and live to tell about it. It wasn't that I could tell you exactly what you were doing wrong with your running form although I could.
The greatest lesson I learned was to leave a legacy worth sharing with someone else.
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