The importance of paying it forward in our sport can never be overemphasized. I have written about it on several occasions.
It is gratifying to me to receive a text message or read a Facebook post from someone I've interacted with who has now become a runner and is participating in races, working toward reaching running goals.
A good friend and former colleague dropped over 100 pounds in a little over a year. He now runs his 5K races in the 22s, and recently completed his first marathon.
But, if you really want to pay it forward, using your running wisdom and experience to lead others down the running path, you should try coaching.
In August I began my 8th year as head coach of Penn State Schuylkill's Men's and Women's cross country teams.
Penn State Schuylkill is a branch campus of the Pennsylvania State University, nestled in the hills of east-central Pennsylvania. Only about 1,600 students attend classes at the campus. Many students are local, and they commute back and forth from classes daily. Other students reside on campus, and many of those young men and women are from the inner-city.
This year's team, consisting of 10 men and 7 women is a unique blend of urban and rural students, as well as a contrast of experienced and novice runners.
Several of my team members participated on local track and cross country teams; while others have never run a step.
We have participated in three invitational meets thus far, and have one more invitational and the state championship meet remaining. For the state championship, we will travel to Penn State's main campus, at University Park, and will compete against all the other campuses within our Penn State University Athletic Conference.
At yesterday's meet at Penn State Wilkes Barre, two of my runners, Nico Granito, and Casey Renninger, earned awards, as they placed 5th in their respective races.
It was, however, Keon Major, Muhammad Brown, and Muhmod Shabazz, who truly distinguished themselves at yesterday's meet. On August 24, at our first practice, these young men had never run a distance event.
Yesterday, they all completed a 5-mile race.
They are fine young men, and now they are long distance runners.
Makes a coach proud.