Wednesday, January 2, 2013

What would your heroes say?

With the new year comes reflection.

Me, I've been wondering what my heroes would tell me if they knew me. If we were buddies and I asked them for advice, on running and life, what would they tell me?

Thing is, I think I know what they'd say, and I think I'd be embarrassed.

I have two running heroes, Edwin Moses, and Steve Prefontaine, and two non-running heroes, Steve Jobs, and John Lennon.

Edwin Moses, Ed, I'd like to think he'd want me to call him "Ed", was, make that is, the greatest track and field athlete of all time. You can argue for anyone else you want, Emil Zatopak, Carl Lewis, even Jesse Owens, but you will lose. Ed dominated the toughest event in track for 10 years. Ten. Years. He went undefeated at the absolute pinnacle of his sport, for 107 straight finals and 4 world records. No one was even close. Don't take my word for it, read all about it yourself... I'll wait.

See? Told ya. Amazing...

My favorite fact is that Ed majored in physics and industrial engineering at Morehouse on an academic scholarship. Yes, the greatest track athlete of all time was on an academic scholarship. Smart dude.

I have always admired not just his records, but also how he revolutionized his event. Ed used his considerable education and intellect to invent new ways to train, to measure and monitor his success, to accomplish things never before accomplished, things that other well-schooled people thought impossible.

I think Ed would tell me, in his gentle manner, that I'm underachieving and selling myself short. He'd encourage me to find a direction and put all of my energy and focus on finding every possible way to succeed, even if that meant inventing a way there. And as for my running, he'd encourage me to be more disciplined, analytical, and to set more challenging goals.

Steve Prefontaine was a shooting star in US distance running who burned bright, white hot, for too short a time. He was brash. He was arrogant. He was a blood-thirsty competitor. Pre despised the idea of paced racing, saving some for the end. His objective in a race was to run you into the ground. He once said "No one will ever win a 5,000 meter by running an easy two miles. Not against me.", and "I am going to work so that it's a pure guts race. In the end, if it is, I'm the only one that can win it." He ran from the front, counting on guts, determination, and will to get him to the finish line first. Pre never won Olympic gold, but he inspired millions with his balls-out approach to his event, and his life.

"Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it" - Steve Prefontaine

Pre would meet me at a dive bar, buy me a beer, look me dead in the eye, and tell me " First, your running. Dude, you gotta run more, and faster. You aren't running nearly enough days or miles, and when you do, you're too slow. The other stuff... shit dude, stop being a pussy. Trust your talent. Don't fear failure, fear regret. You need to outrun all the bullshit. Man up, look way down the track, and just go... hard!"

Steve Jobs, well, we all know Steve. We all have opinions about Steve. Do yourself a favor and read his Stanford commencement speech. That's the Steve I admire, and the Steve I'd look to for advice.

Steve's email would be brief, abrupt, and direct. "You're wasting your life. Don't follow, lead. Listen to your heart and your intuition. Do something great. Change the world. -Steve"

In many ways, and on many days, I wanted to be Edwin Moses, or Steve Prefontaine, or Steve Jobs. I never really wanted to be John Lennon, I just wanted to hang out with him. The Beatle version of John Lennon would be a lot of fun, and I'm sure very witty and clever. When I imagine (sorry) John and I hanging out, though, it's the John that lives in New York City, far removed from The Beatles life, raising his second son as a stay-at-home dad. We'd meet in the park somewhere. He'd go unrecognized as he approached. He'd shake my hand and sit down across from me at the chess boards, for a chat, not a game.

"How are you, man? What's on your mind?"

I'd tell John that I felt as if I'd unknowingly jumped track years ago and now find myself wondering where I am and where I was supposed to be. He'd tell me to relax. He'd say that everyone feels lost, and to give myself a break.

Then, John Lennon would ask me who I most want to inspire, and then challenge me to inspire them, daily. He'd ask me how I wanted to be remembered, and encourage me to make myself into that person. Finally, he'd remind me not to lose sight of what's really important... to seek peace and love and kindness, and to give it in return.

I have a great life, and I'm happy in it. Yet I can't help but feel that there's a bell unrung.

Good news is, there's still time.

Now, what would your heroes tell you?

Good running,