I first raced against Shadrack in the 10,000m at the 2007 Mt. Sac Relays. With one mile to go, the race had reduced itself down to pack of 4 including Reid Coolsaet, Pablo Olmedo, Shadrack, and myself. Reid went on to run 27:55/13:21/2:11. Pablo, perhaps the most accomplished of our peloton, has run 7:35/13:12/2:11 and has compiled a rather lengthy and impressive resume of international performances representing Mexico on several occasions.
From this group it was the youngest and only collegiate, Shadrack, who burst forth from the pack with a 1000m remaining to outdistance us all. I think he ran around 28:16 with a last mile around 4:12 to win by about 5 seconds. Needless to say, I was not surprised to learn that he went on to triumph over Galen 1.0 (pre-finishing speed development) at the NCAA 10,000m a few months later.
But here is where their paths diverged. Galen went on to his final year of "amateur" athletics at the University of Nike. He wintered in Park City, Utah while enrolling in correspondence classes in-between cryogenic saunas, thyroid testing, underwater treadmills and tummy massages from his mentor, Alberto. He emerged with newfound speed running 27:40 at he PAC-10 cross country championships, closing the Pac-10 track 10,000m in an unheard of 400m split of 52, and basically winning every NCAA championship a distance runner can win. It was quite the swan song. Even more so considering the fact that his career had already been quite notable. On the other hand Shadrack was largely unheard of (to me anyway). That is until last night in Edinburg, TX.
I was sitting with Race Director, David Chavana, filling out my registration information and going over the elite field. David had introduced a new prize money structure this year that differed from the previous 2 iterations of the event in which I had participated. This would be the first year that there would be American citizen only prize money available. This is not unheard of on the U.S. Road running circuit, but it is usually an opportunity to double dip into two prize purses. The two being the American money as well as the open prize money available to all competitors. For this weekends race; however, there was no double dipping allowed. The American and international prizes would be computed separately. David was showing me the other Americans who were entered in the race and he mentioned Shadrack. I thought it was strange, because it is usually big news in the running community when any former NCAA champion obtains U.S. citizenship. I, a frequent visitor to the www.letsrun.com homepage, had heard nothing of this. More on this later.
In Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers, he discusses why certain people rise to the very pinnacle of their given profession. As it would turn out, chance and opportunity play a huge role on who becomes great. Many others will wallow in mediocrity despite talent, dedication and hard work. For example, multiple X-games and recent Olympic gold medalist, Sean White, was blessed with the good fortune growing up living next door to Tony Hawk. That opportunity to have access to a half pipe, the skateboarding messiah, along with his natural gifts were the combination that led him to becoming an international multi-sport heavily endorsed superstar. Bill Gates, multi-billionaire and father of the modern PC, went to a prep school that provided him access to one of the earliest versions of the PC. It was this opportunity that was the springboard that propelled him on to greatness. This brings us to Galen Rupp, who just happened to go to Central Catholic, where Alberto was coaching. He was a talented young American distance runner that was given a tremendous opportunity. And he has capitalized upon that opportunity with a commitment to better himself and undertake the work necessary to improve on a year by year basis. For after all, an open door means nothing if you are unwilling to get off your ass and walk through it.
And now we find ourselves back at the awards ceremony on February 5th in Edinburg, TX. There is a heated discussion between the 3rd American finisher (32:30), the race director, and Shadrack. Shadrack had driven from Corpus Christi to pick up an easy pay check on minimal training. He was under the impression that American prize money was available to all U.S. residents. It was clear he meant no deception and was clearly unhappy to find out that he would be driving home without the $1,500 paycheck that he thought he had just earned.
How many others out there could have been Sean White, Bill Gates, or Galen Rupp if given equal opportunities. If you don't know by now, I'm sorry to break it to you. Life isn't fair. The old proverb, you can achieve anything you want as long as you set your mind to it, isn't necessarily true. Unfortunately, it is simply much harder if not impossible for most people in this world to achieve the American dream of success that so heavily glamorized through our pop-culture and various media outlets. The fact that any of you are even reading this puts you in a very elite sub set of human beings on this planet that probably aren't worried about what, if anything at all, you will eat tonight. You won't be losing any sleep thinking about a source of fresh water.
I myself have been guilty in the past of focusing my attention on all of the opportunities in this life that have so unfairly passed me by. But this foolishness only led me away from seeing all of the opportunities that I have been so fortunate to receive. It was energy that I am no longer willing to waste.
Check back in later this week for my race wrap up's from both the Houston half-marathon & the Edinburg 10k. My blogs along with race/workout footage, interviews, news articles and photos can all be found at www.fasilbizuneh.com.