A Story For The Next Generation

I am breathing easier these days. I started mediating on the Monday morning after Thanksgiving in-between feeding my dogs and making coffee, and I have to say, meditating is indeed all it’s cracked up to be. I am more calm and aware of every moment of every day than I ever have been, which is very cool. I think about nothing when I meditate, and everything, so it is an interesting experience. I recommend it.

Just like every other meaningful activity in life, meditating requires practice. I truly enjoy and appreciate daily practice, so I am looking forward to practicing meditating for the rest of my life.

This Friday I am speaking to my favorite Jr. High School English teacher’s classes again for the third year in a row, and just like meditation, swimming, running, writing, and cycling, speaking takes practice. This annual exercise is an exceptional form of speaking practice because unlike the standard 15 – 20-minute speaking engagement for a book-signing event, I will be speaking to 5 different classes for 45 minutes each.

Yikes.

 The White House press room, 1996.

The White House press room, 1996.

While preparing for my talk I realized that I started running just months after I graduated from Jr. High School, so right about my audience’s age. Since running is a huge part of my identity, and identity is the theme of my talk, I may tell them my running origin story, I may not, I am still putting it all together, but I will share it with you.

Here we go:

The first Cross Country practice I went to the Summer before my freshman year of high school was a trick. It was in July, when coaches weren’t allowed to begin formal practices, so these late afternoon/early evening Summer practices were run by the Team Captains, one of the Captains was my brother, Peter.

I had no desire to join the team. Peter knew that. I was 100% focused on being a soccer goalie and dedicated all of my attention doing whatever I needed to do that Summer in order to insure I made the team. Plus, I was a sprinter if I was any kind of runner. The thought of long-distance running made my stomach turn. I was a goalie for a reason; I did not like to run.

“You should come with me, T, we’re just playing Capture the Flag in the park.” Peter said while filling up his water bottle in the kitchen sink.

“I don’t think so, Pete.” I scoffed while watching Bill Bellamy introduce my favorite TLC video in front of the MTV Beach House.

“Just come today, and if you don’t like it, I won’t ask you again.”

If you know me at all, or have read my book, you are aware that I revere my older brothers. The fact that Peter was inviting me to hang out with him at all, let alone at a school function where he was a “Big Time Senior”, and I was a lowly incoming freshman, was simply astounding. I had no desire to run, but before I knew it, both our water bottles were filled and we were driving away in his beloved Ford Escort, Layla, on our way to Cahuilla Park to meet my date with destiny.

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Peter was right, we did only play Capture the Flag that day, but we played across the entire park where we had to RUN the whole game, tricky. Peter introduced me to his team as his little sister and instantly I felt the warm admiration of his teammates gaze as they welcomed me as their great leader’s anointed younger sister. I knew these kids were sincere, and exhaled a sigh of relief, I found my tribe.

 A few of my Claremont Wolfpack Cross Country teammates

A few of my Claremont Wolfpack Cross Country teammates

I was a runner.

During my freshman season, in the fall of 1993, I became one of the fastest girls on the team. Meanwhile, Peter was the fastest runner on the team, period.

The most prestigious race of the year was the Stanford Invitational. The reason it was such a big deal was because only the varsity runners were able to go.

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Therefore, the stakes were high going into our mid-week league meet at Bonelli Park against Chino High School. Thankfully, I ran well, and safely secured a spot for Stanford. However, there was a Senior on the team who finished just behind me, and she was distraught because she didn’t make the cut. Before we boarded the bus to head home, I decided to give her my spot, because she was a Senior and it was her last chance to go. Honestly, I didn’t consider my decision very noble, I had three more seasons to run in that race; surely I would have my chance to race at Stanford.

 The Stanford Invitational starting line.

The Stanford Invitational starting line.

Peter was bummed for me, but proud of my sportsmanship, and that is what mattered most of all. I finished out the season as one of the top twenty in the league, instilled with healthy momentum toward a promising high school running career.

After that freshman season, I never ran in another varsity Cross Country race. I grew three inches over the next year, going from 5’7” to 5’10” and lost my speed. I was still a decent runner; but I was not one of the top seven girls on the team, so I never ran at the Stanford invitational.

Despite it breaking my heart, I never stopped running.

 Near the finish of my first marathon, Rock n' Roll San Diego, 2001, alongside my friend Sarah, and my brother Peter.

Near the finish of my first marathon, Rock n' Roll San Diego, 2001, alongside my friend Sarah, and my brother Peter.

I have established running, triathlon, and career goals over the years that have mostly come true, but never the way I imagined they would.

I will share that nugget of wisdom with the malleable minds I’ll mold on Friday, because I think it is valuable for everyone to hear. Over the twenty-five years since I sat in the chairs those students will be staring at me from, I’ve learned if I believe in myself, am willing to do the work, and be patient, one day those goals will be staring me right in the face offering up a high-five and huge hug.

 Realizing a goal ten years in the making, qualifying for Kona at Ironman Arizona, 2017.

Realizing a goal ten years in the making, qualifying for Kona at Ironman Arizona, 2017.

The path to our goals doesn’t always pan out the way we planned them to, but if we care enough about them, are willing to adapt, jump over, and bulldoze through the barriers life puts in our way, we’ll make it through to the other side.

GO Panthers!

I love Pink.:)