Coach Desmond Dunham is one of the prolific high school track and field and cross country coaches in the country.
Dunham coached national All-Americans, national champions and helped athletes earn international titles in the sport.
He started the DC Redwings, a year-round running club for youth runners, which existed for eight years. Dunham began to coach at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Maryland.
He made history by leading the team to 20 national titles and ten state titles. At the Penn Relays, he brought home two Championship of America titles in the 4x400m and 4x800m in 2007. In 2008, he helped Eleanor Roosevelt to win another Penn Relay title in the 4x400m while coaching the 4x800m to a national record of 8:43.12, which still stands today.
After spending five years at Eleanor Roosevelt, he began as the head cross country and distance track coach at the University of Maryland from 2009-2013 where he coached several NCAA qualifiers.
After realizing his passion for youth sports, he returned to the high school scene in 2012 at Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. Since 2017, Dunham became the Director and Head Coach of track and field and cross country at St. John's College High School.
What is your memoir about?
I started running competitively in high school and it completely changed the trajectory of my life. My high school coach became a father figure at a really critical time, and he is part of the reason why I became a coach as well. My book is a memoir that chronicles my childhood, my college years, and my coaching career. Throughout the book, I share my failures, my successes, my struggles, and my triumphs in running and in life. It culminates with a powerful story about how the Eleanor Roosevelt team I coached in 2007 made high school sports history.
Who has inspired you to write this memoir?
My mother, my family, and my high school track coach inspired me to write this memoir. The sacrifices they made were so incredible and without them, I wouldn't be who I am today. And I'd say my Eleanor Roosevelt team that won the Penn Relays titles in 2007 also inspired me. My book culminates with that story and those young ladies were so amazing. It was a pleasure and an honor to coach them.
*Tameka Jameson ran the second leg for the victorious Eleanor Roosevelt (MD) in the Championship of America 4x800m relay that clocked a 8:51.19 in 2007
Why was it important for you to share this story?
I've actually been sharing pieces of my story with my athletes for years as a part of what I do as a coach. Since I'm from Gary, Indiana, some of my athletes started calling them "Gary-tales." As some of my athletes would go on and graduate and then come back and visit, they would talk about some of the stories that helped them the most.
The story that stood out was when I shared my struggles and my challenges and what it took for me to overcome them. There have been a few athletes that actually told me that they thought I should write a book.
About six years ago, I decided that if I ever got the time, I would write a book. Once the pandemic hit and I was home more since our seasons were canceled, this turned out to be the perfect time for me to write.
How will your book inspire athletes and coaches?
Well, I do think my book can be inspiring to athletes, coaches, and even readers who have never run, because we all struggle, and we're all running a race called 'life.' My book has literal stories about running, and running is a metaphor throughout the book, but I think both runners and non-runners will see themselves in some of my struggles and my triumphs. We all want to feel safe, secure, loved, and supported, and in life, there are times when we are disappointed when we are hurt, fail and when we fall flat on our faces. We get up and we keep going. We keep running. I think athletes, coaches and others will be able to relate. So, I hope folks will just see the humanity in this book, and ultimately, they will see themselves and be inspired to keep running their own race.
What is your favorite memory and accomplishment as a coach?
Definitely, my favorite memory is the 2007 Penn Relays when our girls won two Championships of America (4x800 and 4x400) and defeated the dominant Jamaican teams. Running Against The Odds details more about why that was so memorable for me, but I'll also just add that the conditions made it even more special. My favorite accomplishment was when I coached the Eleanor Roosevelt boys' team to a state championship in track and field in 2008. We didn't win a single race, but we made sure that we had enough depth and breadth to take home the title. I was super proud of that one because the guys were patient, and we strategized, and they all peaked at the right time. They really trusted me as their coach.
*Eleanor Roosevelt broke the national high school record 4x800m record in 2008 at the Penn Relays Carnival in 8:43.12
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How would you describe the years as a coach as Eleanor Roosevelt in Maryland from 2003-2008?
I had so much fun during those years. I worked extremely hard, but it was so exhilarating to help build a program with those young athletes. They were highly motivated and so they wanted to push themselves to be their best and to excel at high levels. It was so humbling to see them grow into young adults and to see that the seeds I helped to plant blossomed as they took those life lessons they learned with our team to become successful beyond high school, in college, and in life. We built the kind of team culture where there was so much pride, loyalty, trust, and tenacity. The parents and families really rallied around the coaching staff, too. On a personal level, these were also the years when my own children were born, and the team was just as excited during those moments as my wife and I were. It was a really, really special time.
What's your favorite part about being a coach?
The fact that I get to be a part of shaping a young person's life in a positive way is so rewarding for me. I feel really blessed that parents and student-athletes trust me to follow my coaching during such a critical time in their lives. I especially love it after they've gone on to become young adults and when they come back and share how being a part of the team really impacted them. That's the best part.
What do you hope readers will gain from reading your book?
I hope readers will see that we all have struggles and trials and odds to overcome, and we all have unique gifts, talents and passions that are designed to help us get through those odds. Running is one of my passions that propelled me to get through so much, and I hope to pass that on. For someone else, that passion may be photography, or cooking, or gardening, or teaching...whatever that passion is, I think the key is not keeping it to yourself. Once we use our passion to get through our own challenges, it's up to us to share that with others. That's why coaching has been so enjoyable to me. I get to share my passion with young people and in doing that help them find their passion to do the same one day.
Is there anything else unique about Running Against The Odds?
Yes, Running Against The Odds is prepared for an 8th, 9th, and 10th grade English & Language Arts (ELA) curriculum not only to inspire students but become a model for their own personal narrative. I have a free teacher's guide that can be downloaded at: https://www.
Where can people go to find more information on your book?
Folks can go to Amazon, my website www.coachdezdunham.com and can also find me on Facebook: desmonddunham and Instagram: @coachdezdunham.
Where can readers purchase your book?
My book is available on Amazon beginning September 30th or https://www.coachdezdunham.
When will the audiobook and Spanish edition be available?
The hardcover, audiobook, and Spanish editions will be available in spring 2022.