Chris Bennett is the Nike+ Run Club Global Head Coach and a former coach with Christian Brothers Academy (NJ), where he helped lead one of the deepest cross country teams in the nation to numerous accolades. He's a graduate of the University of North Carolina, where he ran for both the Tar Heels' cross country and track and field teams, and a former runner for the Nike Farm Team. Bennett wrote this letter in 2017 to departing seniors. You can follow Coach Bennett on Instagram and Twitter @bennettrun.
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It's almost time. It's almost time to say goodbye. You will leave us and move on. Many of you will have the opportunity to attend college and universities. You'll study interesting things and meet interesting people and see interesting things at interesting parties. It will be an incredible four -- or if you're intelligent enough to milk it, 5 -- years.
It's almost time to go. There are juniors waiting for your parking spots. You're so close to closing the door on this part of your life. But nothing is shut just yet.
I have never walked in your shoes or raced in your spikes. I never will. I know that. But I have been around this great track you find yourself on. Hopefully you find something worthwhile in what I am about to say.
Take it. Leave it.
As always ... it's up to you.
I'd love to drop some original knowledge here, but the reality is that many of the great truths I've learned about life and running have come from movies.
So, I offer you some (borrowed) wisdom.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don't slow down and look around you might miss it -- Ferris Bueller's Day Off
This is truth. You have to admit that senior year got here quickly. It's all about to end. You'll be having that last relay and your last team meeting and the last time having to alter what you eat because of practice. All those sacrifices? Can you remember all of them?
What about that time you had to turn off the Yankees game so you could get to sleep? Or the dance(s) on Friday night(s )that had to be skipped because of the meet(s) on Saturday(s).
Sundays in the Summer? Long run. Saturdays in the Winter? 17 hour indoor track meets. You'll miss them, all those sacrifices and stresses. They were worth it. The long bus rides, the bad fast food after a meet at the Armory in NYC, the terror in the paddock before a big race...it seemed like there would always be another meet or bus ride or set of intervals coming up.
One bled right into the other. Soon there won't be another. The bleeding will stop. So don't rush. Enjoy them. It goes by fast and soon even that will become "it went by fast." Slow down. And please don't take a day off. Not now. Don't. Miss. Anything.
You know, I'd like to quit thinking of the present, like right now, as some insignificant preamble to something else -- Dazed and Confused
Dazed and confused people dominate no single age-group. Both old and young will tell you that now is not as important as later. They will tell you not to care so much; it's only HS. It's only Track & Field. You're only a teenager.
They will tell you there is more after this and after that is the only time that matters. Screw that. This Here-Is-Now stuff is important. Don't live, train and race these next few weeks like they are some way-station or meaningless pit stop on a long voyage.
Today, tomorrow and these last few weeks? They are important because they are what you have here and what you have now. I wish I knew what tomorrow held, but I don't and if today is one of the last practices with your teammates of the last four years, or your final state meet with your friends, well, that sounds important as hell to me. It's OK to care. It's OK to have the most important moment of your life now. You can always have a more important moment...later.
The more difficult something is, the more rewarding it is in the end. -- Big Fish
This was tough. You started out as a kid -- a little kid, really -- a freshman. You made it, though. Many of you competed eight seasons and some of you 12. There was never really an off season. The expectations were there all the time. You had so many commitments and you had to learn on the fly and then just like that you're a senior and you have to guide and teach and mentor and counsel a new group of kids, little kids really, freshmen.
You probably don't realize it now -- just how special it all was -- how incredible you were. You probably don't comprehend all the work that you had to do. You came back day-after-day to be a part of something greater, to become better than you were the day before. The payoff in track and field is always delayed. It takes months and sometimes years of work to marshal your own forces and achieve an effort you are truly proud of.
The real payoff though comes much later. Once you have stepped away and you can see this time of your life from a distance counted in years, and not meters or feet, you will realize you are proud of yourself. You will realize you were extraordinary and a part of something epic. It's rewarding in the end, absolutely.
Real loss is only possible when you love something more than you love yourself -- Good Will Hunting
I hope you walk off the track in June hurting. Seriously. I hope you are hurting real bad. That's right, I hope you cry. I hope you miss it all -- the competition, the struggle, the uniforms, the smell of the track on a hot day, the sound of metal bleachers, the feel of putting a pair of spikes on.
I hope you miss your coaches, your teammates, this version of you. I hope you get emotionally crushed. I hope you experience that. If you walk away devastated, that means you gave yourself to this sport. It means you loved it. When it goes, this part, it will hurt.
Because that's what a broken heart feels like. Savor it. Your heart will heal and it will grow back bigger and stronger. And when it does you'll be ready to love again.
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It's almost time for you to go, to move on and find that mountain of yours that is waiting, right? Well, if you have just another minute, before you go, I have one last piece of advice. In all honesty, it's a few pieces of advice for these last few weeks and beyond.
As much as movies teach us and inspire us, life is not a movie ... and there is no script.
So don't be an actor.
And don't rely on special effects.
And as far as I know, there is no sequel being planned, so live this life as best and as fully as you can.
In life as in running:
- Always respect your competitors but never fear them.
- Don't be afraid when you are boxed in. An opening will show itself. Have the courage to pass and move up.
- Always be a great teammate.
And always try to hand the baton off in a better place than you got it.
One last thing... when the people you care about leave make sure you tell them that you will miss them and that you want to see them again.
So, before you go please know...
We'll miss you. Come back and see us.