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THE POWER OF ONE: By Coach Kevin Smith, May 2001

"WRESTLE!”  With the familiar burst of adrenaline I always get when I reflect upon it, I can hear the drill-sergeant bark of Michael Meredith, junior high school gym teacher extraordinaire, piercing the dank, stagnant air above the well-worn mats of the wrestling room floor.

As a small—vesuper herory small, actually (72lbs to be exact)—grade 7 student, I wanted nothing more than to impress and earn the respect of this man that I—and every other kid at Milneford Junior High—so revered.  He personified the mythic figures we learned about in history and art classes at the time: “Gladiator” and “Adonis”.  He truly embodied these larger-than-life legends, with his commanding presence, chiseled features, bulging yet finely sculpted muscles, incredible grace, swiftness, and dexterity…all of which he demonstrated daily, whether it was on the wrestling mat, on the playing field, or even at the ping-pong table.

Even before I found out he was a runner he was my idol.  And not just any runner, mind you—he had run the Boston Marathon, many times, under 3hrs!  I learned of his exploits slowly, by wearing down his self-deprecating modesty with constant questions.  Why did he run to and from school all the time, even on the coldest, snowiest winter days (icicles encrusting his trim beard, backpack frozen to his nylon jacket)?  What did he like about it?  Did he win races? Etc, etc…

At the time, I was in the very early stages of discovering that I liked running myself, but nothing could have accelerated my motivation and development like finding out that Mr. Meredith was a great marathoner.  Further, as the year wore on, he began to encourage me, and guided my toward the completion of, my first-ever 10K event.  I remember feeling like that race very near killed me, but something in me “clicked” with running and racing, and I was forever hooked.

I went on to competitive running in the ensuing years, gradually losing contact with Mr. Meredith, as I ascended the local, then city, then provincial, then national ranks as a teenage runner.   At the risk of overstating the obvious, running continued to be a central theme in my life, leading as it did to the creation of our company, Marathon Dynamics Inc.

And so it was, one chilly, sunny Sunday morning this past winter, after one very satisfying long run with a group of “lads”, that I found myself chatting with one fellow in particular.  He was a new client of Marathon Dynamics, whom, due to his obvious talent and enthusiasm, I had invited to join our regular gang of banditos for a long run.  Amidst what is usually the best part of any long run, the post-run-giant-coffee-body-numb-mind-hazy state that we all know too well, I noticed that he looked a bit melancholy.

“You OK?” I asked.  “Well, not really, I’ve had a bit of a rough week…my running mentor, the guy who got me started in running, the guy who is the reason I’m going to Boston this April for the 1st time, he died earlier this week”.

As he said this, I was instantly empathetic, as I thought of my long-time, all-time running mentor, “Oh my god, that’s awful”, I said, “I actually can kind of relate to how you must feel, ‘cause I actually have a running mentor just like you, to whom I attribute almost all of my involvement and success in running, and I’d be just crushed if I learned of his death”

My new client/running buddy looked up at me and asked “Who was he…what was his name?”

“Oh, well, he was my junior high gym teacher…his name was Mike Meredith”, I replied.

Puzzled, and a little incredulous, he said back to me, “That’s him.”

We looked blankly at each other for a moment.  We knew we shared a deep sense of loss and sadness, but also of communion, and of significance.  In the next moment, we were fondly recounting “Mr. Meredith” tales, fables, and lore, and then it hit us…how many other kids had he inspired as he had us?  Over 20 years of teaching, with hundreds of students taught per year? Even if he only reached one or two students per class, that would be hundreds of lives enriched by running, in so many different ways.

When I think of what Mr. Meredith did for my running, and what, through the creation of and the development of Marathon Dynamics, we’ve been able to do for others’ running—over 2500 in clinics, over 1500 customized plans, and over 500 personal coaching clients, as well as numerous corporate fitness seminars and events—it really does put into perspective the awesome impact that one single runner can have in the lives of so many others.  

Something to think about the next time a non-runner, or new runner, says “Oh, so you’re a runner…What’s that all about anyway?”

Michael Meredith

Born: Nov.  23, 1940
Died: Jan. 13, 2001
Boston Marathons Run: 19
High School Phys. Ed. Teacher: 25+ years
Lives Positively Impacted: many thousand (conservatively estimated)

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