Presented by Jane Johnson
When I think about this year’s winner of the Cleveland-Caldwell Award for the Advancement of the Sport of Running, I can’t help but think of the key premise of the movie, “Pay it Forward,” which goes like this:
If someone did you a favor – something big, something you couldn’t do on your own – and instead of paying it back, you paid it forward to three people…
And the next day, they each paid it forward to three more…
And the day after that, those 27 people each paid it forward to another three…
And each day everyone in their turn paid it forward to 3 more people, in two weeks that makes 4,782,969.
Now – what would you do if someone gave you the gift of:
· Physical fitness
· Self confidence
· Membership in a group of diverse, interesting and compassionate people of all ages who share a common pastime
· A forum to acquire a highly developed sense of self discipline applicable in all areas of your life.
· Opportunities to learn valuable lessons in establishing and achieving long term goals
· The chance to view glimpses of potential previously hidden within you – that you didn’t even know you had.
· Festive occasions to practice being alternately rewarded and humbled for your efforts
· The rare opportunity to test the limits of your physical and mental toughness – and then find like minded others with whom to share your experience, and
· Easy access to highly intoxicating, mood altering chemicals – without needing to go to a pharmacy.
You are probably asking yourself, how could someone possibly give you all of those wonderful things?
The answer is simple – if that person inspired you by their actions, encouragement, and instruction – to become a runner – and ultimately a member of the Gulf Winds Track Club.
The more important question is: how could you possibly repay someone who gave you all those things? The honest answer to that question is – you can’t.
But there are those of us who want to at least try – by extending the inspiration, encouragement and coaching they once received – to someone else.
Most of us in this room can think of at least one person that we have sort of brought along in the early days of their running careers (and some of us may even regret that early coaching, when those same people turn into faster runners than us and start kicking our butts in races – just kidding.)
Seriously, all of us started somewhere – with someone who made us believe we could be runners. Stop for a minute and try to remember the person who really influenced you in your early days to become a runner. Now try to think of a person you might have helped to become a runner. Hopefully you can think of at least one person that you paid that original gift forward to.
Now, try to imagine someone who suffered from asthma all of their lives and never in their wildest dreams thought they could become a runner. But then, someone very special came along and gently worked to disabuse that person of the notion that they could never be athletic, starting slowly by exposing them to other runners and races and then finally convincing them to try running themselves.
Fast forward several years and now that once tentative “wheezer” is an accomplished runner, with a list of broken PRs and races completed too long to count.
A life has been transformed, and a whole new world has opened up to someone who previously had lived within very prescribed physical limits.
How do you repay a gift like that?
For someone in this club, the answer is to pay it forward by setting aside hours of your personal time each week for months at a time to inspire as many people as possible to experience the same positive benefits of being a runner that you have come to appreciate.
· Imagine that person organizing motivational classes and structured training sessions for any interested participant.
· Imagine that person calling on other experienced runners in the club to also share in the process, by sharing their stories, and educating or motivating groups of novice runners.
· Imagine that the results of those efforts exceeded everyone’s expectations – and dozens of enthusiastic men and women of all ages, body types, and physical histories – showed up each week in pursuit of a goal they were never able to accomplish on their own.
· Imagine the exhilaration they felt when at the end of the training program these new runners crossed the finish line in their first race.
· Imagine the participant who was able to shed 100 pounds because of the discipline and respect for her body that she learned through running. Imagine lives changed for the better, new friendships made, goals set and achieved, and all those new club memberships!
· Now imagine that for the past seven months, the person behind all of this kindness and generosity had continued to give of herself week after week, despite the fact that her husband (who is also the very person who first inspired her to run) was undergoing treatment for cancer.
· Finally – imagine a gracious, loving woman, race director, wife, mother and professional who hopefully has finally caught on and realized that the 2004 Winner of the Cleveland-Caldwell Award is … Nadine Dexter!