A note to readers: Michael Granville, the (still-standing) high school national record holder in the 800m, first wrote a Dear Younger Me article for MileSplit back in 2017. We have decided to bring back this piece on the heels of two efforts by high schoolers -- Marshall County's (KY) Cade Flatt and Woodstock's (GA) Will Sumner -- on Friday to break the mark, which has stood since 1996.
Dear High School Michael,
Tue Tue! You just set the national record in the 800 meters today in the semi-final of the California State Championship. Be proud of yourself, young man. Inhale. Deeper. Take it all in, Tue Tue, embrace this moment. This is your day, May 31st 19-naughty-six! You hold every national 800 meter record from the eighth grade to 12th. As I write you today, August 2017, you will be called the G.O.A.T. (like Ali) and 1:46.45 will still be the fastest time ever ran by a high school athlete in the 800 meters. You will eventually be voted to CIF's All-Century team honoring you as Cali's top 100 athletes of all-time.
Yet tonight, you sit in your room contemplating walking away from everything. You are convincing yourself to skip the state final as a silent protest to the man that has broken your heart: your mentor and co-developer of a successful 800 meter program. He's someone you have shed tears with the thought of losing. You would die for him. But for what! For your father's approval? That's all. To think that on this day, you make history and you just want to run away.
Your record-breaking day started like every other day. Walking on eggshells, wondering what mood pops may be in? The answer is: intensely on edge. Bell Gardens High School has scheduled a ceremony to award the school's top GPA earners (top 10 GPA for you and sister Sha Laura's has the Salutatorian honor).
And yet, he didn't want you to have any part of it, because he didn't want you distracted from the state prelims later in the evening. This is one of many opportunities, you know, where generating lasting memories are against the rules.
Play other sports? Not allowed! Movies with friends? Not allowed! Accepting an invitation to anything without him? Nope. All of these are offenses punishable by getting kicked out of the family. But mom pleads with him to let us get our awards. He agrees and gives mom the car keys, but, he says, we are given a curfew. We can barely enjoy the celebration because of this one-hour curfew. Guess what! We return five minutes past his wishes, and true chaos ensues.
You hear how mom is accused of being too happy and forgetting his curfew. You don't understand -- I still don't understand -- why he ridicules her for being proud of her children. He yells at her, "Nobody wants to see you!" He turns to you and he challenges your focus and commitment to track. He tries to bully you. Tear your newspapers articles up! Take your awards off the wall! You need to show yourself how tough and ruthless you are. But you stand up to him. You say no. (Thank you for holding your ground, Tue Tue.) You know he takes your stand-off as a threat and he starts the rage for the ages! He immediately starts to rip everything off the living room walls and yells and screams at the top of his lungs.
To think that on this day, you make history and you just want to run away.
You start to go numb. Everything goes silent. And yet, you know there should be sound. Because you see the anguish on your mom's face as she tried to push all the new flurry of confetti into a pile. You see how she's hit by the clock as to remind her about time and going over his curfew. Your brothers and sisters are bumping into each other trying to get to their rooms. Tue Tue, I remember you being filled with adrenaline; it was about survival mode. Fight or flight? I remember your whole body feeling swollen, like the blood was pushing through your palms and your ears felt erect. You felt like you couldn't move, but you find peace staring at the blank screen of the floor model TV set. I remember Mario (5 years old at the time) sliding next to you and joining your stare at the TV.
He whispers to you, "Tue Tue, whatever you do . . . please, break that record."
You say, "OK."
You sit there until it's time to run your 1:46.45.
Even today, I am a fan of your bravery. You ignore his efforts to communicate on the way and during the meet. To your surprise, your standoff doesn't lead to more chaos. He leaves you be. I remember during the warmup you stay quiet and distant. As the final call for your semi-final is announced, he now needs to say something to you.
You were expecting an apology for HIM being the distraction, or even something like, 'I love you no matter what the outcome.' But he says, "The wind is not blowing, this is the day to do it!" And Tue Tue, you don't break your silent protest. You only nod in agreement. By then, you had your mind made up already. You were strong enough to figure it out: sprint the third two hundred meters to exhaustion. I know you would always run the first 200, jog the middle 400, then sprint the last 200. But here on this day, you decide to run the third 200 so hard that you would fatigue out at the 600 meter mark.
That didn't happen.
Tue, I remember the splits. The first lap felt like a 100 meter wind sprint. The clock clicks 49 ... 50. The bell lap rings at 51. It's hilarious to me now, and I know you feel it still. You making a pow noise in your head to signify the start of the real race, the third 200m. You hit the third 200 in 26 seconds! You get to the 600 and don't feel tired, but you can start hearing your breathe and the feeling of your feet hitting ground as you come around the last turn.
Da dum, da dum, da dum, da dum!
With 100 meters to go, you hear your dad at the 700 meter mark shouting, 1:27, 1:28, 29, 30 ... You do the math and believe you can do 14 or 15 seconds for the last 100! At this moment you feel alive! The crowd noise starts to filter in, you see the clock, 1:38, 39 ... Your legs suddenly become tree trunks that feel planted to the ground with every step, but you push past the finish line with the biggest smile on you face. 1:46.45!
You see two of your best friends from Bell Gardens High School, Juan and Bern Dawg, at the finish line. You run to give them some respect for the support. Twenty years from today, you will make a 100 t-shirts commemorating 20 years of setting the national record using the accutrak print out given to you by the officials. You are smiling with your right index finger pointing to the heavens (and, the wind reading says 0, lol!).
You do the math and believe you can do 14 or 15 seconds for the last 100! At this moment you feel alive!
Tue Tue, you are free now. This record is a gift of your sacrifice, discipline and daily practice. Hard work does pays off. The early birds does gets the worm. You can visualize victory because the power of the mind is not a joke. Alert! This will be the fastest time you will ever run. But it will be OK. At UCLA, you will win two NCAA relay championships with five amazing teammates and lifelong friends. You will add more experience in track and field as a teammate, as an observer, as a fan. This is the beginning of you becoming a coach.
You learn from the best of the best in Track and Field: Ato Boldon, Maurice Greene, Jon Drummond, Marie Jose Perec, and all of HSI. You will skip lunch break to study the birth of the drive phase. You will meet people from all over the world. Bruins fly in from far and wide. And it seems everyone has a cool stat. You will meet people from India, Egypt, Guam, Asia, Europe! You will meet Kobe Bryant, Phylicia Rashad (Clair Huxtable from The Cosby Show), Steve Urkel (From Family Matters), and Faizon Love (Big Worm from Friday) will yell out for you to come over to him at a restaurant. It's a mistake. He says, 'Nevermind, I thought you were Usher..."
I think growing up with the threat of having your family taking away from you encouraged you to redefine the definition of family.
You fall in love with accents. You meet a volleyball player from South Africa that survives a Rhino attack and that fascinates you. You really love people and their stories. You love to laugh. You smile, you make eye contact. You are a giver. You have real conversations with real people about real life. Organically, with a collective and conscious evolution, you are starting your own brand that will be known for bringing people together. I think growing up with the threat of having your family taking away from you encouraged you to redefine the definition of family.
You will win the lottery. Her name is Marie. Just remember: comment on her purse and use the line, "Are you half beautiful, half amazing?" Trust me, you will fall in love, she will marry you, and you will have two beautiful and amazing sons! You two start a family business that brings families together to #workoutanywhere and #havefun. You will own the biggest gym with no walls (literally and figuratively): Granville Fit In This Boot Camp (G:FIT). You share this letter with you mom before sending. She is your biggest supporter. She is successful. She is love.
I would like to tell you more but you have a race to run tomorrow. So, I leave you with this.
Your Dad will convince you to run tomorrow. Listen to him this last time. A friend to your future self will write you this:
I was at GWI (Golden West Invitational) to watch (George) Kersh. And I won't ever forget how he dismantled Richardson's NR with that 51-second first lap. Expectations were high for you, my brother. That you achieved the pinnacle of high school success in the calm belief of your ability, in near obscurity, is the legacy that lives on. It's not the 106 seconds it took you to run two laps alone around that blue Cerritos College track; It was that you returned the next day and took care of business. You continued what you did the prior. You won. You delivered. And you're synonymous with delivering. It's in your DNA. Nice walk back in time. It lessens the 'disappointment' of traveling with my father to Norwalk to specifically watch the boy's 800m final in the hope of watching history. For we did witness history, and it keeps repeating itself! Good on you, Michael! Keep putting in the work. Keep pushing the limits of your dreams!
Thank you, Eric B.
Tue Tue, nothing is in your control. But I have some advice for you. Prayer works. Drink a cup of water after a night's sleep. Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth. Write down your thoughts and ideas. Do stand-up comedy. Smile often. Don't take things personal, especially what someone else may do to you. But take what YOU DO TO YOURSELF personal. Life is 10 percent of what happens to you, and 90 percent how you respond. Remember to Follow One Course Until Successful (FOCUS). Be grateful. See the beauty in people and act as if that's all you see. Have Compassion. Continue to spread good news about health and fitness with conversation and lead by example.
All the best!
Michael Granville II