Thursday, January 19, 2023

Do I have what it takes to mentor young runners?

 I've been thinking about it for a while, and last night I took the next step. Here in Philadelphia there is an amazing organization called Students Run Philly which partners adult mentors/coaches with student running groups. If you've participated in any run here in Philadelphia, you've probably seen the blue shirts on younger runners on the course.

While some of the runners look like track stars most look like normal teenagers trying something that they know is difficult. If you know my personal history with running, you know that I probably never even would have been convinced to try going to one of these community events. This is why I'm interested in becoming a mentor.

I still remember back to high school when I would milk a minor injury as long as doctors would extend the medical leave from gym class. Like the time I tripped over my dog's bone, fell down the stairs, cut my knee open (I still have the scar), and ended up in the ER thinking it needed stitches (it luckily didn't) but stayed out of gym for almost three weeks. Missed the mandatory mile and everything. Now, I have chronic pain but still go out and push harder than my doctor recommends. Seriously, after my first Broad Street Run she told me that my body wasn't designed for that type of abuse so I decided to sign up for a half marathon.

The point is, I know what it's like to be that awkward uncoordinated kid. I still am, just older and more stubborn. I am still probably one of the slowest runners out there. But I'm out there. I go at my own pace and I may be later to the finish line celebration but I'm still at the finish line celebration. I may have taken almost seven hours (six hours and fifty-nine minutes) to finish my first marathon, but I finished.

I have my good days and bad days. When my back flairs up I can barely get down the stairs to walk Benny but luckily those bad days are fewer and farther between now. They still happen, but I've learned from physical therapy how to reduce them.

The point of this long-winded narrative is to say I know what it's like to have adults think you can't do it and to think that about myself. I want to be the adult that I wish I had when I was younger. Not the gym teacher yelling at me for walking around the track. Not the doctors telling me to exercise more like it was the easiest thing in the world. I want to be the adult that says "let's walk for a bit. You've got this." and encourages a student to continue to the finish line, even if slow. You need to take a rest? Let's go grab a bottle of water and stretch it out a little. To celebrate the little victories. Because those little victories grow into larger victories. 

It's also why many people are chasing the PR not the BQ. I know I'll never qualify for Boston. I run a twelve minute mile on a good day but average closer to fifteen minutes on longer distances. But this year I knocked two minutes off my Rothman 8K. And next year, many I can knock another two minutes off. Those Personal Records are the ones to celebrate. Don't compare yourself to anyone but your former self. That's what I hope to help with if my schedule allows me to join the Students as a mentor.