dennis-accentsSteve Prefontaine once said, “To do anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” If you don’t know who “Pre” is, then I know you are definitely not a runner.

Pre was a collegiate athlete who changed the face of running in the United States in the early 1970’s; he ran at the University of Oregon for his coach, Bill Bowerman. If you don’t know who that is, take a look at your kicks. Do you wear Nikes? Bill Bowerman IS Nike. The most recognized American runner in history was coached by the man who dreamed up Nike – it is pretty poetic.

As an assistant professor at Missouri Southern, not only do I teach a variety of courses, but I love to run.

Yes, you read that right – I love to run. You may have seen me running through campus, or circling multiple laps on the MSSU Cross Country course. I talk about running in meetings, in class, and with my advisees. It’s a great metaphor for life, even if you hate to run.

Running is about the approach, effort, and drive. I can work hard to achieve goals that I set for myself. Running gives me perspective and allows me time to think. Numerous solutions have been revealed to me over the years with each strike of my foot as it hits the pavement. Of course, the shortness of breath, muscles burning, and joints aching is not exactly perfect – but the feeling after I finish a run is just that. It’s great to know that I can push my own personal limits and succeed.

As crazy as it sounds, running is my “gift” to myself. I was recently diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of cancer known as leiomyosarcoma. I required multiple surgeries and hospitalizations. After my surgeries and for numerous months that followed, I physically could not run, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever run again. It took a long time, but I am now back out on the pavement. I have completed multiple 5k, 10k, and 15k races. In December, I’m running a half marathon, simply because I can. Thankfully, my gift is back and I’m not going to sacrifice it just because it’s hard.

Pre was a guy who loved to run and it was his gift. I am definitely no Pre, but I do find reward in a good run. So what does running mean to you? Perhaps nothing, but I have no doubt that you have your own “gift.” Perhaps it is friends, family, volunteering, your fraternity/sorority, or sports. Maybe it is one great class, all of your classes, or just school in general. It could be that you are working full-time while pursuing a graduate degree, or that you have returned to school to complete your bachelor’s degree after life happened.

Each of us has a gift and it is worthwhile trying to determine what it is for you. Ultimately, whatever is your “gift” is, don’t sacrifice it by doing less than your best. And who knows – maybe I’ll see you out on the road running sometime.