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Monday, March 18,2013

Just another runner's perspective

Who is your mentor?

by Gale Fischer

GaleFischer_1.JPGGale Fischer is a 43-year-old special education teacher in Battle Creek. He has a wife, Kathy, and twochildren, Torey and Logan. He is an avid runner and writer. He began running in 1997 and has completed 26 marathons. Gale will provide a monthly column on running leading up to Lansing’s first marathon on April 22.

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing."— Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, Jan. 4 — As the holiday season comes to an end, many individuals begin the new year by making resolutions. A resolution as defined by Wikipedia is “a commitment that a person makes to one or more lasting personal goals, projects or the reforming of a habit that must be reached over the course ofthe next year. This is a goal and not a wish.”

As runners, many of us are goal-oriented. My first running goal was to run a marathon. I decided to do this after watching a good friend run in the Chicago Marathon 13 years ago. I started running the next day and completed four miles in my neighborhood. This four-mile run was quite a challenge, but it was also a turning point.

Achieving our resolutions relies heavily on the commitment, focus and resolve of us as individuals. Beyond this individual drive however, many have mental, physical and spiritual help from others in achieving their desired outcomes. These individuals are known as mentors. Dictionary.com defines a mentor as “an influential senior sponsor or supporter.” When many of us think of mentors we think of a coach, teacher or even a parent who has taught us, guided us and provided an example to follow. A mentor can also be a friend, an acquaintance, a co-worker, someone we do not know or even a child. 

I witnessed an example of a child being a mentor while working the Kalamazoo Area Runners’ booth at the One One Run on New Year’s Day. A young mother and her middle-school-aged daughter approached our booth after completing the run together. I learned that the mother had started running as a result of her daughter participating in Girls on the Run and by being a middle-school cross-country runner. Her daughter may not have coached her, but she did provide the inspiration for her mom to start running.

Another more profound example came to me earlier this fall. My son began football practice in late August, and I would often drop him off at practice and go for a run. When I returned to practice, a father of one of my son’s teammates would always ask me how far I ran. He was a very large individual, whom I guessed to be about 6 feet, 5 inches and close to 300 pounds. I could never figure out why someone as big as he would have such an interest in my running.

A few weeks after our first interaction, our conversation turned from my running to his story. He made a lifestyle change four months prior. He began walking twice a day and drastically changed his eating habits. Over the course of four months, he lost140 pounds. My jaw almost dropped as I imagined this gentleman having another 140 pounds on his frame four months earlier.

A few years prior to this, his daughter had participated in the Girls on the Run program. Watching their daughter grow as a result of Girls on the Run inspired his wife to start running. He wanted to take up running too, but his weight would not allow it. He hoped that if he lost another 100 pounds, he would be able to join his wife and daughter for a run. His daughter had unintentionally transformed the lifestyle of her father through her involvement in running. Although she probably is unaware of it, his daughter became his mentor. 

Through my years of interacting with other runners, I have heard numerous stories of adults who decided to start running after watching their children participate in the sport. The positive influence that children have on us can be truly amazing. As a teacher and a father, I have seen these countless times, but stories of children being examples can come from children whom I have never met as well.

Last fall, WWMT-TV broke a story of 12-year-old twin girls from Scotts, who were born blind. They received cornea implants to restore their eyesight when they were a few months old. These amazing girls have since used their story to educate and inspire the public on the importance of eye, organ, and tissue donation.

All of us are blessed with the potential to be a mentor. Mentors can teach, coach, lead by example, inspire or simply help us remember that although evils exist in our world, there are also positives that we should focus on to shape our attitude and decisions. Mentors can help guide us as we navigate the twists and turns of our daily lives.

As we transition from 2011 to 2012, we should be proud of our achievements, but it is also important to acknowledge others who played a role in these accomplishments. We are not alone in what we do. There is nothing wrong with drawing on others for guidance and inspiration. Happy New Year.

Keep running!

Until next time, this has been just another runner’s perspective.

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