Running is a life-changing habit and it teaches us a lot of lessons.
After 25 years, I thought this is a good time to list the reasons why I still run, and how I started and hope that anyone reading this will find some inspiration to continue on and never stop.
I can vividly remember my very first run June of ‘94. My dad took me to the store and told me he would buy me a pair of Nike Air Orange and White running shoes for my 11th birthday, if I would run 3x per week. That day, I ran 1.5 miles around my neighborhood. At the time, it felt like I ran forever, because everything is bigger to an 11-year-old kid. I don’t remember how I felt during the run, but I do remember feeling a sense of accomplishment when I finished.
Running has helped map a blueprint for my life, obviously I was a little naive when I wanted to get a gold medal in the olympics, but…..at least I had a dream! The day I ran 1.5 miles literally changed my life forever. Sure I could have said never again, but I promised my dad I would run 3x per week. So I did. One day my sister came home from her “speed workout.” I asked how I could do speed work and what it was. So the West Catholic Team invited me to one of their speed workouts at UNION High School when I was in 7th grade. I loved it because I was running with the big kids, getting my butt kicked but I didn’t care, I was the youngest one doing the work.
My sister was the standout runner in High School. She made me wake up a 5:30am in the Michigan winters to run 2-3 mile morning runs when it was freezing out and snowy icy streets. I cried some mornings because I didn’t want to go, and dad wouldn’t let her run unless she was with me, so I basically had to. It ended up being one of those turning points because when she left for college, I did continue to run in the morning 3x per week when I got into High School.
Running is a life-changing habit, which is why I listed my top 10 memories for why I still run and I hope it reminds and inspires others to start running or continue to run.
#1. My Dad and Mom: My dad had a heart attack when he was in his late 40s. I was around 10 years old. To the day, he pushed us to work hard, and seize opportunities. Also not make the same mistakes he made when he was young. He ended up coaching me when I was a senior in HS, which was my best season. My mom made Goulash before all of my big races. She knew I was superstitious about everything so she never forgot.
#2. My Sister: Katie Clifford Jazwinski was a standout runner at West Catholic and the University of Michigan. She and her husband pushed me to not be a wimp, to run long and not lose the pack running in a race. I gave up in races so many times before I learned to race. Katie always reminded me though letters, and messages on the whiteboard to never quit.
#3. Lenny Skryski. Coach Skryski was a legend at West Catholic. He put his heart and soul into WC XC. He was a crazy guy, but in the age before the internet, he would make these collages for me to inspire me and the WC team to be the best we could be. Recently I found a ton and literally teared up because I didn’t appreciate them as I should have at the time, but now they mean so much more. Quotes from Coach Skryski: “You are the lighting” “Only fools say it can’t be done” “Long Green Line”
#4 Grandpa Ben Prawdzik. My Grandpa rarely missed a sporting event for any of us. He was at every basketball, football, Cross Country and track meet. He was our biggest fan. He would always be there win or lose, but when we won, he had a contagious smile on his face and gave us a huge hug and had no words, just laughing and crying.
#5. City Meet, State Final, and 4 x 800. When I was a senior in High School, I had never won a City conference XC Meet. My senior year, I learned how to race. The kid from GR Christian was in the lead by over 1 minute at the 2 mile marker, and I ran him down and won conference. That same season, I took 4th at the state XC meet running a PR of 15:48. In track, I can’t forget the 4 x 800 race where I anchored and had to catch the kid from Grand Rapids Christian. I ran 1:55 to overtake him on the home stretch and our team won, I can vividly remember that day, my dad was more proud of me than I ever saw him.
#6. EASTERN MICHIGAN: Going to Eastern was the best college decisions I ever made. I met some of my best friends and really learned how to be a competitive runner. Joel David was an All American and I remember him coming to my final race as a high schooler and told me they wanted me to come to EMU. I was so excited. Eastern separated the men from the boys. We worked our asses off. I am still fearful of some of those workouts we did. 15 x 1000. 30 x 400. (4 x 400, 2 x 800, 1 x 1600, 2 x 800, 4 x 400). My time at EMU still is fresh in my memory like I was just there. I loved my friends, I loved running every day, although I hated some of the things we did, it made us stronger. Let’s be honest, for the most part, running kept me out of trouble and kept me focused so I would graduate with good grades. I was far from perfect, but being on the team and running always set me straight and humbled me.
#7. GREAT LAKES RELAY. The GLR was a running event that starting near the thumb of Michigan and ended at the pinky. Lake Huron to Lake Michigan. It was 3 days, 10 guys, 3 nights of camping. We ran hard every day, and we were not calm at night, put it that way. The memories of that trip will never leave and I will never forget those times with my friends who shared the same love for the sport that I did. YPSI LOST BOYZ
#8. WITHOUT LIMITS. In July 2007, WOL was born. I moved to North Carolina, even though I loved Michigan. Wilmington became a new home, and after college I took some time off running. I never planned to stay South, but one thing led to another and I started running again. Soon, my running transpired into a business coaching runners and then triathletes thereafter. Everything that preceded WOL helped me to really enjoy helping others and helped me grow as a person and business owner. I absolutely loved seeing people succeed and get faster, and it has kept me running myself because I am inspired by all of the folks I coach.
#9. COMMUNITY: Running is a community. People race together, train together, suffer together, and hold each other accountable. There is certainly a competitive environment in a community but competition is good. It pushes us all to be better. If there was no race, admit it, running wouldn’t be as fun. I still run today because of my community and my memories. SE North Carolina running is pretty awesome, and we constantly have people striving to be better. I want it to keep growing, and I want to see more people running.
#10. MY HEALTH, MENTAL, PHYSICAL, and MUSIC: As I get older, I want to still be out there competing and training. It gets me high. I feel better on days I run than days I don’t. I love trying new things that I learn in the coaching world, doing them myself and then putting them into action with my runners. I love the feeling of going out for a run, just me, my music and my feet. Nothing else. I make a great playlist and float through the run singing along to the music with my breath. Many songs remind me of my Michigan days, good times with my family, friends, and days competing when I was younger and what the future holds. That nostalgic feeling makes me run faster and gives me the runners high, it is a feeling that is hard to put into words. My playlist might consist of music from Bob Seger, Tom Petty, The Eagles, Metallica, to College dance music even Polka (reminding me of my Grandma and Grandpa and extended family parties). Prayer while running can do amazing things. You have to thank the good Lord to be able to run in that moment, for a life full of memories and for new memories to be made. “Won’t back down” “Roll me Away” “forever young”.
I realize that running has shaped my life. Every day I get to run, I get to continue the journey of where I started when I was 11 years old. Days that I am slower are okay because I am not going to be fast forever. I can still be out there trying, feel good and be an example for my 2 girls Grace and Lily and stay healthy to be a good husband to my biggest supporter Annette.
Running is a great part of life and it teaches us a lot of lessons. Thanks for reading a summary of 25 years of running memories, Happy Running!