“Even a hint of encouragement can change everything.”
We are more than a total sum of our experience. Let’s be clear, we are the total sum of our experience + internal drive + God-given resilience + biology, and so forth. We are formed by how we internally process this data. However, understanding our own complicated internal formula for who we are today, does not mean that external influences deserve any less attention. Singular experiences can send us off into an entirely new trajectory.
“Do You Like To Run?”
I want to express my deepest gratitude towards a person from my distant past that influenced my life as a runner today. His name was Don Zundell. He was my grade 4 teacher.
Mr. Zundell taught me to run, but not as part of my playground routine. Mr. Zundell taught me the power of running on the road.
I think it started because my mother expressed concern about kids making fun of me at school. I was a sheepish child and excessively sensitive (still am). I never rose above the bottom of the pecking order, and it took me years to learn to not internalize harmful words. I am nothing like that today, and that journey started with a teacher that was wiling to show interest.
I remember the day when Mr. Zundell asked me to wait after class. After reviewing the problem, he stopped and sat quiet for moment, and then asked, “Do you like to run?”
Mr. Zundell ran every day after school around the “airport loop”. At the time we were living in Petersburg Alaska. There was not much pavement to run on, and the loop was the most popular “all pavement” runners destination.
I remember that first run (job), and I look back with the deepest gratitude. Mr. Zundell must have been in his mid 20s at the time. He kept a slow 4th grader pace with me for about a mile, with many walk breaks along the way, before I turned back home. We talked about little things on those runs, and never addressed the kids that were giving me a hard time. It didn’t need to be addressed, I just needed to find a passion that nobody could destroy. That was his wisdom.
I do not recall how many runs we went on, but I have never forgotten the power of that experience. I went on to swim competitively and ran a year of cross-country in high school. Each time I returned to running over the years, I look back to that first experience. I know I would not be the runner, or the person, I am today if it was not for that gentle cosmic nudge from the influence of an amazing teacher.
Cheers to all that provide encouragement and inspiration to those they pass in life. Never underestimate the power of living a kind example.