The boy was just 14 years old. He’d enjoyed running to get ready for wresting season. He’d enjoyed running road races. He played baseball in middle school. The thought of running cross country seemed a little foreign but he decided to give it a go anyway.
It was September of 1987 when this young man arrived for the first day of cross country practice. For the last 11 years he’d lived with his mom and now his world was turned upside down when he moved 150 miles to live with his dad.
A new school. A new sport. A whole new life. After a summer of work and shooting a basketball now it was time to become a freshman in high school and start something new. It was time to try cross country.
He loved to run. He’d been doing it since he was 9 years old when he ran his first road race. He won the 5th grade mile years before. He’s been in the top three for the 600 yard run in the presidents physical fitness test. This was different. This was high school. New people and a new sport.
The boy was scared and nervous. What in the heck was cross country anyway?
The only person he knew was the coach. He’s seen the coach at the local youth center.
They had played basketball, ping pong and foosball together. Then one day they crossed paths outside the walls of the Dennis Youth Center.
At a local 10k the coach was promoting a race he was putting on and ran into the young boy trying out his first 10k. “You run? You should come out for cross country! I’m the coach”.
Not knowing what that even was the boy said yes. That next week the boy had a training schedule in hand. He didn't like running for more than 20 minutes. His knees hurt so he stopped after just a couple of training runs.
Thoughts of his failed summer of training hung in the boys mind on that first day.
Some instruction, a mile warm-up around the track with some trivia questions, some stretching, some more instruction then a choice.
4, 6, or 8 miles. The boy knew that the “varsity” was doing 8 miles. That wasn't an option. The boy, at 14 years old, has a serious sense of optimism. “I am going to be GREAT.” He chose 6 miles and off they went.
The boy hung with the group for a while then tired to a walk. The turnaround finally came and he realized there was only one guy behind him. While he was walking the senior “body builder” caught up. They ran together on the warm September day.
“I’m trying to get into shape for the military” was what the big senior had to say.
The 14 boy had nothing to say. He did have doubts.
At the end of the first day it was the boy who was the last one back. On that day he was the slowest.
Nobody waiting. Nobody realized the greatness that was out there.
Nobody saw the potential of the future school record holder. Nobody knew at that time the future greatness of the boy out on the trails struggling to finish the run.
In the ensuing days and weeks the young boy would get better. He would move through the team on the runs. At the first meet he won the junior varsity race. At the first big meet he won the freshman race.
He wasn't done. Oh no.
This boy was the last one back on day one.
The last day of the season saw this new runner, this young man, finished as 5th runner on the team at the state meet and earn his varsity letter. This young man would earn a letter ever season he was in high school.
This young man was the last one back to the school on his first day of practice. Yet, this boy would lead his team in the coming years. Oh yes, he would.
In 1989 he led his team to the Class B District Championship. He didn't stop there. At the All-State meet his 17th place finish led his team to the All-State Championship. Just 2 years after being the last kid to return to the school he led his team to victory at the most important meet there is. He led his team to the state championship.
The next year he did it again.
The spring of his freshman year the young boy told his coach he wanted to be a miler. The coach laughed a little. Sorry, “You are too slow to be a miler”.
The boy turned into a man and laughed for the 18 years that he held the school record in the mile.
The boy did many great things in high school.
The boy would grow into an accomplished runner. As a collegiate he would run 4:16 for the mile. Eventually he’d run 15:22 for 5000 meters. The boy who was last back to the school on day one would go one to finish 7th in his age group at the world championships in the XTerra Off Road Triathlon. This same boy would finish 12th in his age group at the Half Ironman Distance triathlon World Championship.
This boy turned into a guru. This boy became a leader in his field. This boy went on to inspire many hundreds of people to be and do their best.
This boy. This boy I know all about because this young man was me.
I hated being the last one back to the school that day.
I hated that feeling with a passion.
I didn't blame the world. I didn't cry. I didn't make excuses. I tried my hardest to change that result.
I ran 6 miles on my own every Sunday. I tried my absolute hardest at every practice. I gave EVERYTHING that I had to give. Being the last one didn't suit me. I said no. I said NO.
Did you hear me? I said NO f’ing way am I going to be last again.
I am going to pass the next guy, then the next guy, then the next guy… I am going to do whatever I can to pass the next guy and to face and overcome the next obstacle.
Stand up. Yeah, you.
I want to speak to you in very simple terms. Ready?
You are the last one back. What are you going to do now?
To your success!
Rick Copley, Your Best Fitness Coach