By Coach Phil
On this week’s blog I want to go over something that isn’t a question most people usually ask but it’s definitely an issue people deal with regularly and in different ways. Setbacks! In running as in life, setbacks are going to happen. It’s inevitable and often totally outside of your control. Regardless, it can be a pivotal part in your running experience that can ruin it for people or make them enjoy it all that more afterwards. The key comes in how you respond to the setback.
The other day I was being interviewed for a co-worker’s school project and she asked me what my biggest setback in running was. I knew instantly it had to do with my college running experience because that was when I first got serious with my running. So a brief history of Coach Phil, wrestling was my first real sports passion. I wrestled since I was very young and dabbled in running at the end of my junior and senior years of high school. A month before college started I had a freak-out moment and signed up for cross country so that I would be in great shape going into my first wrestling season at Oswego State. I did OK that first year running cross country and outdoor track. I was not the best runner on the team by any means (I was actually one of the slower ones) but I enjoyed it a lot. Wrestling on the other hand, did not go so well. By the time cross country was drawing to a close my sophomore year I made the decision to go all in on running. I had improved since the year before and I loved it. The team was great, the satisfaction of seeing myself improving felt amazing. It was a big decision but I was really enjoying running and wanted to see where it was going to take me. Then like we all did at the end of every season I had a one-on-one meeting with the coach…
I was excited to tell him that I was stepping back from 12 years of wrestling to focus on running year-round. I was getting better each season and thought with running all the time it would happen exponentially. Unfortunately my coach did not see it that way. He told me that I was getting better but I still wasn’t cut out for running, especially at the college level. He told me: “You work hard but you're just not a good runner and I don’t think you’ll get any better. You should look into another sport.” I replied with a “Yeah…” which if it were a cocktail would be equal parts questioning and reluctantly agreeing. So there I was going home for Christmas break essentially booted from the team.
I went home and talked to my old coach, Jay Glashauser, to tell him what happened. He was stunned that I wasn’t wearing running clothes as I always ran with his team when I was home on breaks. He gave me the best advice: “You can either give up or you can work your tail off and get back there!” Naturally I asked what the first option was again before settling on the latter. I was determined to run and I wasn’t going to let anyone stand in my way, even if he was the coach and had every right to say no. I tried extremely hard that winter, running two, sometimes three times a day. I lifted, swam and cross trained regularly. The running got easier and easier the harder I worked. I kept pleading with the coach to let me back but he kept turning me down saying that nothing could change his opinion. Then with a gigantic bolt of luck, our top middle distance runner decided to not go back to school. Being a small team at the time and against his “better” judgement coach gave me a chance, saying that he hadn’t approved housing for me thinking that I would not succeed.
I remember warming up not at all nervous that my running career was essentially on the line. I worked hard and belonged there!
Yadda yadda yadda some school records later, getting some sweet coaching gigs here and in Oregon, working with some amazing athletes and coaches, I am still running and loving every minute of it.
I still have setbacks and rough patches with running but I always think back to that time and the choices I made. If it means something to you (which if you’re reading a running blog it most likely does) work at keeping it going. It might not always be easy but those tough spells accent the great moments. Eyes forward, keep your feet moving!
Have a question? Email Coach@fleetfeetsyracuse.com.