Dave Griffin On Running: Months Preparing for a Dream Come True

Dave Griffin On Running
Months Preparing for a Dream Come True

The atmosphere that surrounds a state cross-country meet is filled with anxiety. Individual runners and teams spend months preparing for a day that arrives with a firm truth; the opportunity to make a dream come true, and the risk of watching that dream die, will begin and end in the span of twenty minutes.
1990 was a particularly challenging year. Steady rain soaked everything in sight and bitter cold stung each person there. So, as Dave Cox and the rest of the Francis Scott Key team stood on the starting line of the 1A race, the anxiety was multiplied by the conditions.
The race took on the feel of an obstacle course; hills and turns were like icy sidewalks. Race strategy had new meaning, as runners adapted to the situation. Some fell, many more than once. In the end, the Key runners persevered to win the state championship, and the finish line celebration was a sight to behold.
I once asked Dave what prepared him to succeed on a day like that. His answer was simple - a few years with a great coach.
In 1997 Dave became a coach himself, when he took over the reins of the Westminster High School cross-country team. Early on, he continued a strong tradition of team championships and even led nationally ranked teams, but that's not why he began coaching.
Dave understood that running provides stability, and never is stability more important than during high school. He understood the calming effect of a good workout, how a challenging day in the classroom can be relieved by a run. Most of all, he understood the impact he could have of the lives of kids at a time when positive influences can be hard to find.
Over the years, Dave has coached hundreds of kids. Few showed potential at first, but many showed heart. And, as his passion spread throughout his teams, young runners slowly discovered things you can't place a value on. They discovered the virtue of discipline and the impact of hard work.
I recently heard that Dave won't be coaching this year. It's time to simplify his life.
When I first asked him if I could write this column, he declined, preferring not to draw attention to himself. That humility, no doubt, is something else he shared with his teams.
I told Dave I thought his story was an important one. I told him that it would make others realize that they are coaches themselves, that each one of us must be a role model to someone else. Only then, did he agree.
The people Dave coached, just like the ones we coach, will move on. They will become husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. They will live and work in the same world you and I share, and it's a world that's unpredictable. There will be challenging courses to traverse.
And, when you ask what prepared them to succeed in such difficult times, we can only hope that they will give a simple answer - a few years with a great coach.

Dave Griffin writes a bi-weekly running column and offers coaching to high school and adult runners of all levels. Contact Dave at dpgflyingfeet@aol.com