Hop on Board
2018 U.S Half Marathon Champs: A 10th place finish that motivated me to my best series of races as a pro
Life is a ride we all involuntarily hop on and can’t fully control. We are all very bad at predicting our futures. But some things will always stand out in our past. Sometimes it’s important to reflect on how we got to where we are.
I may be an overly sentimental person. I think I got it from my mom. Every summer or winter when I was home from college, she’d begin the countdown of me going back to school. She would look out the kitchen window and say things like, “ Are you enjoying this whole thing? This is the third to last time you’ll be eating breakfast here before you go back to North Central.” I would laugh it off then, but honestly, it’s something that stuck with me.
I have a distinct memory walking up a hill on a dirt road by myself as a Graduate Assistant Coach in Oklahoma. The sun was beating down while I was waited for the team to finish their warm-ups. I remember my mind wandering as I scanned the nothingness of rural Oklahoma, musing to myself: “How in the hell did I end up here?” I never expected to make the jump from a small town in Illinois to one of the most prestigious D1 programs in the country. I mean, halfway through my senior year in college, I thought I wanted to live in Illinois the rest of my life. But when life came knocking at my door with a greater opportunity, I jumped aboard.
My time at OU was a lot of fun but also a lot of work
I travelled the country as a coach with the University of Oklahoma cross country and track teams. I watched top athletes in the country compete, and experienced things I never could have imagined. But on this lonely gravel road, a sentimental feeling washed over me that I had largely ignored up to that point. For a few minutes, I gave pause to reflect on the wild adventure life had been.
No really, I promise you I really worked hard.
Taking that mental break for just a few minutes was rejuvenating to me, as I had become so worn down with the day-to-day. During that short reflection, I was reminded of the greater picture, and it allowed me to be as grateful as the day I was offered the coaching position.
I recall just this past October. It was my last day on vacation in Oslo, Norway, running through the middle of the forest called Østmarka. In these dense woods, the ski trails spanned all the way to Sweden. I hadn’t seen a soul the entire run, and on my way back, I came across a pond in the early morning, with water like glass. The thought hit me again: How in the world did I end up here?
The vacation included a tour of Berlin, and a plane ride to the edge of the world in Longyearbyen. But this particular location struck me. I stopped running for who knows how long. A minute? Five? Fifteen? While overlooking that pond, my mind was like a VHS on fast forward. I began to get sentimental again. My life had been so busy planning for Europe, and for the Chicago Marathon I raced before it, that I hadn’t actually taken the time to soak in the experience. At that moment, I was incredibly grateful for life’s opportunities.
Hello, My name is Johnny and I like to travel to crazy places.
I think nature has a way of a calling us back from the hectic schedule of life, even if only for a few moments. I can’t explain why or when it happens. But life is beautifully unpredictable.
We can try to plan, manipulate, or talk about where we see ourselves in the next two, three, or five years. But life throws us curveballs. We can only make the most out of the opportunities we are given, and let those chips fall where they may. I couldn’t have planned a two-year pit stop in Oklahoma. I couldn’t have predicted a run through the vast forests of Norway, or an opportunity to run professionally for On Zap Endurance. I couldn’t have predicted the way I found my calling to coach, helping others realize and reach their goals. I hopped aboard this ride that we call life, and somewhere along the way, I realized I could never predict where the train is going. But I can make the best of where I am.
Let life lead you on a path to opportunity. It will guide you into situations you never could have imagined. There is no need to micromanage or overly plan. Nature will occasionally stop you in her beauty. Let your mind take it in every step along the way.