Monday, March 10, 2008

My Don Stanley Athlete of the Year Award thank-you message

Here is the thank-you message I sent to my fellow members of the Cleveland Southeast Running Club for voting me the winner of the 2007 Don Stanley Athlete of the Year Award:

I am honored to be this year’s recipient of the Don Stanley Athlete of the Year Award. I offer my sincerest congratulations to Dawn M. on being honored with the well-deserved Ruta Award.

I did not have the pleasure of knowing Don Stanley. But as he was a friend to so many Southeast Running Club members, I have a pretty good understanding of what this award means, which is why I am deeply honored to be among the recipients.

The Don Stanley Award is named after a great runner and has gone to accomplished athletes who engender the spirit of the sport. Maybe one of the reasons I am so humbled to receive this award is that I do not consider myself to be a particularly great runner. I am not blessed with a lot of athletic talent. But I am blessed with a love of running. I relish and am grateful for every step I take in my running shoes, especially steps I take with my friends on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Like so many of you, I work hard—mile after mile—for what I earn. But just as I have accomplished some of my goals—like going to Boston and completing a 50- and 100-miler—I’ve also experienced failure in my running. I have fallen short of a sub-3-hour marathon and many other goals. But never, ever have I given up. And never will I give up, because running deserves no less than 100%. That is probably the way Don Stanley saw it.

And it is how this club sees it. It is apparent every Sunday morning. We inspire each other to keep going, to improve as runners and people, to keep pushing the limits of our endurance, to get up after we have fallen, and, most important of all, to help others who have fallen. Along the way, I have formed strong bonds with many of you. It is true what they say about runners. We are not just friends who share a common interest. We are like family.

Last year was a memorable year for me, especially with the Burning River 100, which I finished 20 years to month after quitting my high school cross country team because it was too hard. Just as I was told going into the 100 miler, I now see the world through a different lens. You learn a lot about yourself during the last 20 miles. Many of you were there at the aid stations cheering on those of us who ran the race.

I owe special thanks to Wayne V., Mark and Steve G., Bill W., Kam L., Tim C., Jeff U., Paul R., Eileen M., and especially my wife, parents, and family on both sides for their encouragement and support.

Also in 2007, we found inspiration in a number of feats by our members—Kam’s gutsy performance in Chicago, Mark G.'s super-human performance at Burning River, Tim C.’s successful return to 100-miler racing after a few years away from 100s, Vince R.'s 2:46 at Richmond, Eileen M.’s courageous comeback from a serious injury, Frank D. qualifying for Boston at his first marathon, and more. We all found inspiration in these feats.

As no man is an island, I share this honor with each of you and thank you for your inspiration and friendship. Long live the Southeast Running Club.

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