Submitted by Sydney Ayers
I have been struggling to write my One Medal story for a long time; years, in fact. You see, it’s not easy to write about someone who has not only had an impact on my running career but also my life.
I was entering my senior year of high school. Title IX had recently made cross-country running accessible to female athletes in Colorado. Bob Brown, who happened to be my guidance counselor as well as the school’s cross-country coach, approached me about joining the team. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What the hell is he thinking? I am a middle distance runner – 400, 800, 1600, that’s it.”
But he saw something in me I didn’t.
So I went out for the team and loved it. All of it. The over-distance runs to Rolling Hills Country Club and back. The fartleks in the park (and how we all giggled about the term “fartlek”). The speed work around the lake adjacent to the school. How we would sing Queen’s “We Are the Champions” on the bus ride home from every meet and go watch the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” together on weekends. Running cross-country was so much fun and I excelled.
I was on the varsity squad from the start. At first, I was the mid-pack person running fourth or fifth. As the season progressed, I elevated to the second or third runner. In the end, I was captain of the team, named All-Conference and finished 16th at the State Meet held down in Pueblo that year. Every minute was magic for me.
Of course as a senior, I also was trying to figure out what I wanted to study in college. I recall scheduling an appointment with Bob to talk with him about it. I walked in, sat down, he looked at me and said something about how I was a great writer and a good story teller. He finished with, “Journalism would be the perfect thing for you to major in.” He was right about that too.
Six years ago, I was asked by one of my high school teammates to join him and another friend in coaching cross-country at a different school in the area. I was a bit tentative in that while I had taught lessons in other sports and worked with high schoolers in other capacities, I had never considered sharing my love of running through coaching. I consulted with friends and family about the opportunity but the most important conversation I had was with Bob.
Again, he could see what I couldn’t.
Working with young athletes in an effort to transform them into life-long runners has been nothing short of amazing. I routinely find myself thinking, “What would Bob Brown do?” when faced with a difficult or challenging situation.
So where is the One Medal in this? Over the summer, I was on a team of 12 people competing in the Wild West Relay. This is one of those crazy overnight distance races that covers roughly 200 miles through Colorado and Wyoming and I’ve been on some version of this particular team for many years. It’s smelly and hard and fun as hell.
Bob has been battling cancer for several years now and before the race, I learned his health was declining – so much so that one of his sons has moved home to help care for him. While running the race, especially during the nine miles I did around 3:00 a.m. through The Middle of Nowhere, Colorado, I thought about Bob and the many gifts he gave me. I am not sure I fully appreciated them at the time but I sure do now. Looking back I can see he shaped virtually my entire life and for that, I could not be more grateful.
This one is for you, Bob Brown.