Yesterday, I drove up the curves of the Old Blue Ridge Parkway, back north to the Mountain Kingdom. (In case you couldn't tell, I've also given into Instagram. I kind of hate myself, but ooh, filters.) Due to the vicissitudes of work and my departure date, there was only one cross country meet I could make it to, but I was determined that I was going to be there.
Coaching was also an excellent lesson in practicing what you preach, vis à vis the sport of running, but more generally about life. Throughout my running career, I've always been my own worst enemy: negative thoughts, complaints, lack of mental toughness, neglecting to make even a token effort at push-ups, you name it. But when you're supposed to be setting an example for 30-odd fifteen-year-olds, you kind of--can't do that stuff. You must be positive. You must never complain that it's 95 degrees in the shade (not that there is any on your loop) and you are doing repeat 800s. You must claim that hill repeats are character-building, the same way your coach did to you. You must proclaim your adoration for long runs. You must never, ever shirk push-ups or core workouts. And through making a show of doing all of that, you are forced to internalize it, in order to not be a giant f-ing ball of hypocrisy.
Because of that bratty pack of children, I've accomplished more in running than I would have dreamed of before I started coaching. I've raced a half marathon. I've run sixteen miles. I've done ten miles of two-mile repeats. I set a 5k PR. I believe I can run a marathon. But even more important than all of those numbers is the fact that they gave me something to look forward to, every day. I can't imagine my time there without my teams, and I hope that, when I get back from Spain, I'll be able to continue coaching. Along with traveling and running itself, I love it more than just about anything.