(Editor's note: Chris Winter sits on the Whistler Spirit Run's board of directors, was last year's winner of Whistler Spirit Run's men's eight-kilometre race and was formerly coached by event visionary Frank Reynolds. In advance of the sixth annual Whistler Spirit Run, scheduled for Sunday (Sept. 29), Winter shares an important message from Reynolds that has stuck with him during his running career in the guest column below.)
"With Much Motivation" are the three words written on a small card given to me by Frank Reynolds, my first track coach, right before he passed away in December 2006. At the time I was confused by the meaning of the message; I thought there had to be more to it than just those three words. I figured he had not the energy to finish his thought. Nevertheless I held onto the card, keeping it in a little frame which I hung on my wall as I continued forward in pursuit of my athletic dreams.
Over the years I would read Frank's message again and again, and although its meaning was not entirely clear, it reminded me both of him and the many lessons he taught all of us young runners. Frank had a unique gift where he was able to so perfectly balance the intense training that comes with being a distance runner and the fun needed to nurture a lifelong love for the sport. Frank believed, for a long and satisfying career as an athlete, the key was to "focus on the process, not the outcome." To do this, Frank was always looking for interesting, albeit odd ways to keep the training fun. There was his infamous "Stairs of Torture" workout in which we sprinted up and down a long set of stairs that when completed seven times would add up to 1,001 stairs. Despite the horrific name, workouts like these were actually great fun and made us extremely fit.
It was not until 2011 when Frank's message finally became clear. I had recently moved from Eugene, Ore., to Guelph, Ont., in hopes of taking the next step in my career as an elite middle distance runner. After only a few months in my new training environment I had found myself in the best shape of my life, running new Personal Bests (PB) in both the 3,000 m Steeplechase and the 5,000 m. However, what I didn't know at the time was that these would be the last races I would run that season and it would be almost two years before I would make a full recovery from injury.
During this lengthy period away from competition, I had plenty of time to reflect. The decision of whether to continue to pursue my Olympic dream was questioned and my future as a runner looked unsure. I didn't give up, though, and instead I found myself looking to the words of my first coach: "With Much Motivation."
All of a sudden the meaning of these words became clear, along with my path forward. I became devoted to not only recovering from my injury but returning to the track stronger and with more motivation than ever before.
Since my return from injury I have lowered my PB in the 3,000 m Steeplechase by another 11 seconds and have gone on to represent Canada internationally, most notably at this past summer's World Track and Field Championships in Moscow, Russia. Now, rarely does a week go by that I do not repeat those three words, Frank's message continues to inspire me.
Frank had a vision to provide a world-class running event in the beautiful backyard of British Columbia. Today, in Frank's honor, the Whistler Spirit Run provides cross-country events for all age groups from children to masters, competing at distances ranging from one to eight kilometres, including a family fun run! The event welcomes all ages and abilities — from the highly-competitive runners or for those just out for a fun trail run, or a relay event for teams of four! Anyone that has been fortunate enough to participate in past events will attest to what a great weekend it is and knows that Frank's passion for the sport is evident.
For more information about this year's event visit: www.whistlerspiritrun.com