Sunday, June 11, 2006

Did you ever know that you're my hero?

OK, forgive the corny title of this long overdue entry, but while I was running back and forth on the 'ol Rail Trail in Sterling Thursday morning I got to thinking a bit about heroes - what constitutes one, why we have them and more specifically, who mine are. It was a quick way to kill 80 minutes - an enlightening 80 minutes at that - so enlightening, in fact, that I feel those thoughts are worth sharing here.

So what is a hero? Well, I suppose it depends on who you're asking. For me, a hero isn't necessarily some super-human being who is capable of out-of-this-world accomplishments with the snap of a finger. In fact, most of my heroes are just the opposite - everyday Joe Schmoes who believe in themselves, work hard, refuse to take no for answer and despite the odds stacked up against them, go on to accomplish extraordinary things. And these aren't necessarily just running heroes, although they take on a great number of these qualties as well. These are life heroes too. So who are these people? More on that later.

So you might be wondering, why are these yet-to-be-named ordinary people I mention above so appealing to me? Well, for exactly that reason. They're ordinary. Just like you and me. My heroes keep me motivated and give me something to aspire to. They instill a sense of hope yet keep me humble at the same time. My heroes help me to realize that anything is possible if you want it bad enough. And work hard enough. And sacrifice enough. Their examples are worth emulating. They might not always succeed in what they're doing right away, but that never stops them from coming back for more. See where I'm going with this?

Well, if not, let me get a little more specific. Most of these people I know personally, some of them I don't. But regardless, I've taken at a little something from all of them as I make my way through this journey called life.

Stefano Fraioli. My nonni (grandfather), my main man and best friend. I've never met a more sincere soul or harder worker. If I can live up to be half the man that he was, then I did pretty good for myself.

Mario Fraioli. No, not me, but the original - a.ka. my Dad. He taught me that nothing ever gets handed to you. If you want something, you gotta go out and get it yourself.

Bernarda Fraioli. My Nana. This woman just won't quit. At anything. Whenever I feel like giving up, I just think of her and my attitude changes quickly.

Bill Gaudere. An all-around great guy who took me under his wing when I was just getting started in this crazy sport back in high school and he's been there for me every step of the way for since. Bill's as ballsy as they come and sports some pretty spiffy PR's despite having dealt with diabetes his entire life. A true inspiration.

Hodgie-San. My running mentor/all-around good friend who answers all my crazy questions and most importantly enjoys a good brunch. Hardworking and as humble as they come until you meet him on a starting line somewhere. Then he just turns plain nasty, as one should when it's time to butt heads.

Karen Boen. My college coach and one of the toughest people I know. She'll not only make you a better runner, but a better person as well. If she told me to run through a wall, I'd do it.

Bill Rodgers, Steve Jones, Frank Shorter, Emil Zatopek, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Rob De Castella, Ron Hill and Buddy Edelen, just to name a few. The list certainly goes on. Old school running heroes baby. These guys (and gal) just threw it out there, pushed their bodies to the limits and enjoyed doing it. Better yet, all of them were pretty unheralded in their earlier years and then ran on top of the world after years of consistent hard work. My kind of crew.

Teammates, past and present, and anyone else that I've ever had the privelege to run with. I try to take something from everyone I've ever traversed a mile with and use it in some way to help improve myself as both a runner and a person. These are the people who truly keep me motivated. Not to exclude anyone, but when ordinary guys and gals like Nate, Casey, Pat, Ed, Terry, Adam Ten, Driscoll, Katie G., Carly, Brendan, Oscar, Carrie, Miller, Ben, Matt and Brett Ely, LaRosa, Ryan, Justin, Paul Ryan, Roland (and a bunch of others I'm unintentionally forgetting, sorry!) go out and pop big races, nail down qualifiers, set PRs and the such, it gets me pretty fired up unlike anything else. We're all molded from the same tissue. We all help each other out in one way or another. I just keep thinking to myself, "If they can do it, then I can sure as hell do it too."

Quote of the day:
So somewhere in lap two, with the pace starting to slow some, I surged a wee bit to take up the lead. It was like 'Hi, Molly (Huddle), number one 5k runner in the nation! Hi, Cack, All-American 50 million times over! I’m Katie Gwyther, and I'm just going to go in front of you two now if you don’t mind! I know I will see you guys again in the future, but for now I am just going to pretend you aren’t there.'
- An email update from Katie Gwyther, describing her mindset during her 5,000-meter prelim race at NCAAs last Wednesday. Some good stuff in this quote, learn from it.

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