Open Letter to Buffalo Run Medal Winners


You are a champion if you finished the Buffalo Run Half Marathon in Catalina. It’s so easy with all the podium success of SoleRunners (ten podium spots) for the rest of us to think that we didn’t do well. So this letter is to remind you that you’re a champion for just running that day. And I’m proud of you.


You Had the Faith to do The Race. Something like 300 people do that race. Over 10,000 just did the Super Bowl 10K in Redondo. Why? Well the Buffalo Run has lots of hills and the fact is most runners avoid them like the plague. Just look at the elevation profile online to see the massive hills you had to face. And by all means race reports would suggest a very very difficult hilly trail race.

Yet you took the leap of faith to sign up for that race. Maybe you had some crazy advice from coaches. Maybe you needed some hill experience for an even harder race, the Catalina Marathon. Maybe you signed up because your friends were doing it.

So very few people take this leap of faith. Very few people get out of their comfort zone. They stay with the tried and true…the races they know…the races they’re “good” at. They hope to take a few minutes off their times. Good enough. But that wasn’t “good enough” for you was it? You didn’t know what would happen when you signed up then got on that boat. You dived off the springboard into the great unknown with Faith at your side.

For that you’re a champion.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

You Persevered the Bad Weather. It had been raining for days before the race. It was raining that morning. It was raining on the boat ride over. It was raining the first hour of the race. The trails were wet, muddy, a little dangerous. Yet none of this didn’t stop you did it. You found the power of perseverance. You found a way around the wet spots. You ran on grass to avoid the mud. You kept going. Because you knew you had it in you.

You do have it in you. When you get out and race in those conditions you are a winner. Many runners including on our teams would look outside their windows and say “No, way am I running in that!” But that didn’t stop you.

“I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”
John D. Rockefeller

You Had the Strength for the Big Hills. A six mile uphill to start the race is tough. You might have been cursing, and wondering “how much longer can this hill go on?”. This was not just Signal Hill in Long Beach. This was a hill that kept rising. Asking more and more out of you every turn. And did you quit? No. You kept going. You kept breathing, swinging your arms, believing, believing, believing. And as you rose, the views kept getting better and better. The clouds were dancing above the ocean. Then, on top of mile six it opened up and we felt we were on top of the world. A 360 degree view of the Ocean…looking down at Avalon, rain clouds dropping life on the ocean, San Clemente on the background. Tired, spent, you had to use everything to get up and when you get a view like that, when you’ve hit your limits and then still had to keep going like you did…you’ll remember that view always. And for that, for conquering that big bad ass hill, you’re definitely a champion.

“People do not lack strength; they lack will.” Victor Hugo

You Had no Fear on the Downhills. The downhills on that race were challenging to say the least. Wet, a little dangerous, little streams running down the side of them, majestic views to distract you. Then after yet another gut wrenching hill on mile 8, the downhills started. Four miles of downhills. Fast. With you tired. Yet you accomplished these also.

Downhill running is all about conquering your fears…

You found your way down the hills, darting, dodging, picking up your feet, feeling the flow of gravity until you passed the Wrigley Memorial and flew down the road past the golf course into Avalon. Such hills can destroy most runners…yet you found a way past that obstacle also. And for that you’re a champion.

“He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

You Dug Deep in Your Human Spirit. Why do we love watching sports so much? Because we watch humans overcome their limitations, their doubts, their failures, to find something deeper, confidence, strength, courage, hope, teamwork, flow, and that very special moment in all eternity when the athlete transcends to something so much bigger. And that journey, that overcoming of limitations, is what we love. It is as much a journey of the spirit as of the body. Our spirits need it, oh how they need it.

And on the Buffalo Run, you experienced what we’ve always called a battle. You’re body ran out of energy, out of juice, all your limitations, all your negative thought patterns will arise. You don’t know if you can do even one more mile. Yet you did!!!
You did what all the great athletes do. You did it. You went beyond.

We’ve all got our limitations. Mine yesterday was a severe case of plantar fasciitis. I hadn’t run in three weeks. But like you, I took that chance, and used my infinite source of strength resting deep in my spirit to keep going. We must keep things in perspective, every time you get THAT tired and you keep going…well, you’re a champion.

“Champions aren´t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.” Muhammad Ali

You Crossed that Finish Line. It’s so easy to quit. Geez, I should know, I’ve done it hundreds of times. Especially on a wet muddy day on the hardest race of your life. The thoughts might have crossed your mind. You might have even quit running. Switching perhaps to walking some of those hills. But then you started running again didn’t you? You made to the next turn. You made it to the next tree. You made it down that steep hill. And finally you made it to the top of that monster of a hill.

And even better, as you made it around the last turn, you saw the finish line and ran towards that sign like your very life depended on it. To see the love and cheers of your team mates, your fellow warriors, the ones that went into battle with you.

Then they put a medal around your neck and you might have too tired to even notice. But we noticed and wanted to cry with you. So many athletes have tears come out in these moments, even professional football players. Why would such grown warriors cry? Because tears come when the magnitude of our emotions go beyond our emotional little cages, and then it’s just simpler to just cry…tears of love, tears of exhaustion, of victory, of your spirit breaking out of its shell, that’s why we’re glad to hug you, tell you we love you…you’re a different person after every tear. And especially after every finish line. So for crossing the finish line yesterday…you’re a Champion.

“We shall neither fail nor falter; we shall not weaken or tire…give us the tools and we will finish the job.” Winston Churchill

For Cheering on the Podium Winners. You’re a real champion when you stay around and cheer on the Podium Winners. These runners had great races. To win a medal means so many “pieces must fall in place”…rest, training schedules, nutrition, efficiency, motivation, right level of competition. It’s not easy. And it takes some time to make it ever happen. But the majority of runners in the world will not ever get to the Podium for a medal.

Yet, like you, most runners keep on going. Some of them coming in hours later…with still the determination going. With still the human spirit sprinting across the finish line. That’s why EVERYONE GETS A MEDAL. If you got a medal, YOU’RE A CHAMPION.

So when you stuck around and clapped for the podium winners, you did an honorable thing. Those folks deserve some recognition. A special medal for an exceptional performance. I’ve been up there, it’s great. I thought it would never happen. And when you go up to them and congratulate them…you give them a very special opportunity for them to show the true heart of champion by asking HOW YOU DID. Because great champions need to show humility and grace which you give them an opportunity to do. And if they don’t? Well you simply congratulate them again and take note in your mind not to do that when you win okay? Humbleness, humility, and gratefulness we can practice at every race.

And I felt that from so many of you on Saturday. And not getting up there on the podium I was able to practice all those wonderful qualities myself. It’s a harder path than the trials and tribulations of pride but the one that’ll feel right, connected, and gratifying. Before getting up to the podium you must look up for years like I did. Patience hard work and believe in yourself, and you just might surprise yourself with your results.

So wow. You are a such a hero for running a tough race. You had a medal around your neck making a real champion. You fought hard, you took the chances, you found something about yourself, you cheered others on.

I am so proud of everyone that ran with us that day. And that means especially you. The one that found the race was hard and came in with your own personal victory. While the podium stand might not recognize your victory…I do…your coaches do…your team mates do…your friends do…your children do…your coworkers do…your ancestors who gave their lives to give this chance do…You’re such a winner and I’m proud to run and train with you any day.

And when you align yourself with such wonderful powers like you did that day, and close your eyes, and thank our loving creator for such an amazing life changing experience, then just maybe, just maybe our good and loving God might send you a special present…like this…

Coach Gary

Rainbow over Avalon Harbor at Catalina

Rainbow over Avalon Harbor at Catalina


Comments are closed.