Open Letter to the Fat Kid
September 30th, 2022
To 16-Year-Old Me,
Hi Greg. It’s 2012 now, and you’ve probably just started your junior year of high school. As I remember it, you had a long and kind of tough summer, and are glad to be getting back into a routine. You’re even more excited to finally be taking AP Biology. That’s pretty cool– you’ve always loved science and you always will.
You probably feel like you’re in this awkward spot. At the end of last school year, a couple of friends joshed you into joining the school track and field team. I know you were pretty opposed because you weren’t what anyone would call a runner at 5’ 10” and 256lbs., but these guys managed to reel you in with the idea that all that weight was muscle, and you were going to make a killer shot putter. Of course, you and I both know that your first season wasn’t the raving success you hoped for and by the end of the season you were still struggling to compete at the varsity level.
So now you’re in this gray area. You don’t really feel like you belong with the running crew at school, but you wish every day that you could be fast, thin, and popular like all of them.
You watch their feats of incredible athleticism from the side of the track between your shot throws. You think that they’re all just born different and you have no chance of ever getting there. But you’re still looking forward to joining the indoor track team this season and seeing if you can beat your own PRs in the shot and the 200m dash.
You don’t know this yet Greg, but you’re one year from discovering the purpose of your entire life. It’s already right in front of you, but you haven’t reached out to grab it yet.
In 9 months your Outdoor Track season will be coming to an end. Another year of failing to put it together as a thrower, and always wishing you were really on the track anyway. The same friends and athletes you marvel at are going to try to convince you to come out for Fall Cross Country with them in your high school senior year. Please listen to them and take the leap.
Joining your school Cross Country team will be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will break you down day in and day out. You’ll be jittery with nervousness before every practice, and every week it will require everything in you just to finish the 5K races. It will be so hard, it is going to change your entire understanding of life. No, I’m not exaggerating. And you are going to love it more than you’ve ever loved anything. You’ll love fighting through the hard days at practice, crossing every finish line, and having a team shouting support behind you.
You still won’t know how life-defining this time was when it comes to an end, but you’ll have this voice in the back of your mind, and it will tell you that you can’t stop running because the season’s over, or even because high school is over. You’re down 30lbs from your heaviest weight, now 225lbs.
You’re going to go to your top-choice university for four years, which you were endlessly excited about when you got your acceptance letter! What an accomplishment it is to earn that opportunity. You’ll struggle to find your academic discipline all four years, but you know you need to get outside and run still, rain or shine, snow or hail. Without even realizing it’s happening, more weight is going to fall off. By the end of your freshman year, you’re 176lbs. 80 pounds lighter than you were when you walked onto that cross country team. The weight is gone but you still feel that pull to run every day.
You’ll continue to contemplate your place in the world for the three years you have left in school, and never really find it. In the background you’ve started to rack up some athletic achievements, running your first half marathon, trail marathon, joining your school’s rowing team, and graduating the top athlete in the program. You don’t know where your life will go, but you do know that endurance sports are what will keep you coming back every year.
You’re going to move to Colorado with a great girl that you met on the rowing team, excited to live in the mountains for the first time ever. Even with sunshine 300 days a year and endless opportunities for mountain adventures, you’re going to be deeply unhappy. You’re still struggling to find your purpose. The job you go to every day is killing you, and you know it, but you don’t know what the right path is. One day, you’ll quit your job with no parachute, determined to get your mental health back and find a paycheck somewhere. Three weeks later you’ll take a job at the local running store selling running shoes.
You keep running for yourself recreationally. It’s part of your life now that you know will never go away. You’ve run a few more races now, and will mount your first ultramarathon effort in mid-2019.
The time at the running store has been amazing. You’re amongst your own kind here. You also get to meet countless incredible inspirations and elite athletes, but you long to do more in this world. You foray into the outdoor industry, only to realize that running and endurance sports aren't just your hobby. They are your industry.
Knowing more about yourself, you’ll take the opportunity of a lifetime, working for a running technology startup. You’re immersed in the things that give you purpose, helping tens of thousands of runners all over the world in their endeavors. You work remotely, and live high up in the mountains with your best friend in the world, watching the sun rise over the forested peaks each morning with a cup of amazing coffee in your hand. You believe more than ever that anything is possible.
You’re planning bigger endurance goals for yourself every year, and now your mind is fixed on starting and growing a business from scratch. You have this vision, that the sole purpose of that business needs to be to reach people just like you, right at this moment in your life, and make sure that you take that leap of faith, and start running.