How It All Began
Updated: Mar 17, 2019
It's the one question that every runner faces at some point in time. Usually it's a friend, a distant relative, or it comes up on a first date. The question is nearly impossible to avoid...How did you get in to running?
First let me point out the fact that There is a difference between why you run and how you got in to running. Truth is, why I run now has nothing to do with the reason that I started to run. So let me break it down and tell you how my running journey first began.
I grew up in a tiny little town in Northern California. Lewiston was not your typical town. The population at the time consisted of about 900 people. Outside of one small subdivision in the center of the town, most of the houses were pretty spread out. In other words if I wanted to go to a friends house, I was walking! This was very typical for the kids I grew up with though. Everyone walked or roller-skated or rode the bike every where that they went. For me though, This time of walking from one place to the next became almost therapeutic for me, even at the tender age of 9.
There really wasn't a whole lot to do in Lewiston growing up. The time of video games was just coming to market and for the most part, kids spent there days outside. The school I attended in Lewiston took full advantage of this and every year they put on an annual track meet where all the other schools in the county would come and compete against us. Little did I know that all that walking around on a daily basis was going to benefit me at my first track meet.
Essentially the students where aloud to pick what events they wanted to do. I had seen some of the kids in years pass compete in the cross country race, which at the time was a 1 mile race that basically completed one loop around the school property. This race peaked my interest the most for reasons I still don't know to this day. so at 9 years old, I ran my first cross country race....and I was hooked!
Each year after that I continued to run in the cross country race and each year I placed. I often found myself running to my friends house now not caring that when I arrived I was covered in sweat. What seemed like long runs when I was younger, began to be warmup runs for me as I got older.
However it was my freshman year of highschool that truly pointed me toward my path in running. Fact is, I grew up in a county where running was not the most popular sport. Football was the sport that nearly every parent wanted there kid to play. So my freshman year, I tried out for the team....and guess what? I MADE THE TEAM. Here I was, a toothpick of a 15 year old, and I just made the JV football team. Not only that, but I made the starting punt team! Why you ask? well to put it simply, it is because I was the only guy fast enough on the team to get to the punt returner before he could even catch the ball! There was just one small problem...
I was a toothpick!
Sure I could get down the field fast, but then what? I had no shot at tackling the guy when he caught the ball. I basically would just bounce off of him. So my only hope was to scream abscured words, wave my arms around like a crazy person, and hope that I would distract them enough to miss the ball. For the record, This never happened.
It didn't take long for the coaching staff to come to terms with the fact that I wasn't there best option for that position. It was after our first home game, as we were walking back to the locker room that coach Cunningham walked up to me and placed his arm around my shoulders and said "Irwin...You are never going to be a football player....but you are a dam good runner!"
The next day he referred me to the Cross Country Coach. I quit the football team and pursued the running path that coach Cunningham had pointed me to. A path that I would never walk away from.
Now here I am almost 23 years later. I have ran every race from 400 meters to a 100 mile ultra. Running has become a way of life for me and I owe it all to a tiny little town called Lewiston and some honest words from a football coach who will forever have my respect.