"Russell, you'll never be more than a 'shot put catcher'..."
That was the advice from my 7th grade track & field coach. I don't think I ever had a teacher/coach impart such blunt worldly wisdom on me than Mr. Aden.
I wish I could say I took his 'advice' to heart. That I worked out tirelessly and endlessly to better myself. But, my attitude in life at that age just didn't bear that kind of effort. Instead, I went about my ways.
Something changed over that following summer....call it genetics if you want, but I credit my father for making me push mow an acre+ lawn each and every week, all summer long.......and I hit the track running(pardon the pun) in my 8th grade year. I broke records all year long, every meet....even in events where I had no form, I just had natural speed. I took home handfuls of ribbons/medals at every meet. It was a successful transformation that lasted all thru high school and resulted in a shoebox full of medals stashed away in my basement somewhere nowadays.
"Run with your legs, not your mouth"
My attitude, and especially my mouth, had caught up to me in high school. One teacher, Mrs. Martin, the high school media specialist, allowed me to be her student assistant. She seemed to take it upon herself to change me, and imparted those words of wisdom on me.........and took a sharpie and put them on the back of my track spikes, too!
My final two years of high school track were more of the same -- winning-- but with a different approach & attitude. It was a life adjustment that had come a few years too late, but at least someone had taken the time to make the adjustment at all.
"God gave you an all-weather body, the boosters gave you an all-weather track."
College track was an eye-opener. You think you are good in high school (and maybe you are), but when you get to college, even at the D2 level, EVERYONE was good in high school.
I was nowhere near the best runner on the team. Heck, I probably didn't belong there at all. But, the attitude change Mrs. Martin imparted on me told me to 'stick with it'. Coach Al(sup) took no pity on runners who couldn't keep up; runners who gave up; or runners that whined. It was Coach Al that recognized I would not continue much farther with a career in sprinting (much to my disappointment). He almost immediately moved me up the ladder to "long sprints" (400m, 800m, etc). He had me train with the XC team in preparation for the Winter(indoor)/Spring(Outdoor) track seasons. I only now wish he would have pushed me just a bit harder to leap into the distance events.
"Citius. Altius. Fortius."
After a decade layoff from any real physical activity intended to keep me in shape, my weight surged and I was driven to a grand maul seizure. Thru a weight loss competition, I lost most of the weight and regained my love of exercise, and more importantly, running. Running is a priority in my life now.....like sleeping, eating better, breathing, etc. I can do things at (nearly) age 35 that I couldn't have done at 21. I spend time at the gym and even more time running, all in the pursuit of 'Faster. Higher. Stronger.'....the Olympic motto. This is the story of my beginning.........but trust me, it's only the beginning.