Thursday, September 22, 2016

Where the Hell did 2016 go?

Wow, I can’t believe that the 2016 season is already over. Seems like just a few weeks ago I was writing my 2015 recap and looking forward to the 2016 Olympic season. So what all has changed since September of 2015? Well just like last year, everything and not much at all. 2016, just like 2015, was my most successful to date. Here are a few highlights of the racing season: PR’s at 3,000m and 1500m, Top 5 finish at USATF Road Mile Championship, 2nd place finish at Penn Relays, Top 25 time in the USA at 1500m, Olympic Trials Qualifier at 1500m, and a Olympic Trials Semi-Finalist. More important than all of these meaningless marks, was the formation of #TeamBrandon and the #VictoryOverVasculitis campaign with the Vasculitis Foundation.

This year, like so many in the past, has been a ferocious roller coaster. While writing this piece I stumbled on an analogy to describe my past few years. 2014 and 2015 riding a roller coaster I had never seen before. I was basically a kid on a coaster that I was barely old enough to ride, so my head was banging around in the restraints. In 2016 I strapped myself in for another ride, but this time I'm a little taller, a little more prepared for the sharp turns, fast descents and learned to hang on to the straps in those tough loop de loops. The year wasn't void of struggles, I was just better prepared to handle the intensity of the year. It may have seemed from the outside that the season was a giant success, and it was, but the fall from accomplishing one huge goal and missing another hurts.
Championship 1500m races are as unpredictable as life
Part of growing as a person that struggles with anxiety and depression, is learning to notice signs and symptoms. The goal for me isn't to be even kill, but to be better equipped to handle the ups and down. To me living a flat line isn't desirable. I would say my biggest victory this year has been not been on the track but in my own mind.

Getting involved with the VF has given my running and my career a lot more purpose. As I have said many times, when I was first Diagnosed with Granulomatosis with Polyangitis back in 2008, I did my best to hide it from people. It was something that I hated talking about. Like so many people that suffer silently from Vasculitis, it was something that I just couldn’t explain to people, why I was sick, but looked fine. They didn’t get it, so I just didn’t talk about it at all. Even when I was in remission, I did my best to not ever talk about the subject, and even a few times when I couldn’t avoid the conversation, I just told people I had cancer. I’m not proud of that now, but it’s an unfortunate process that most Vasculitis patients have to go through. But something changed in my mentality a few years ago. I was tired of hiding it. I realized that by me explaining to people what I had been through, that I wasn’t making an excuse, but telling people a story of perseverance that I had survived. There was nothing to be ashamed of anymore and I needed to use my platform as an athlete to inspire others. This #VictoryOverVascuilits campaign has given me more opportunities to share my story and for others to share in the journey. The campaign is about building a community for people that suffer from Vasculitis. That includes the family members and loved ones of Vasculitis patients.

We are all in this together. Together we can help raise awareness and funds for Vasculitis research and education tools. When we started the campaign I thought it was going to be me leading the charge to get people motivated to raise awareness and inspire people to chase a dream. Well I quickly learned that I wasn’t going to be the sole voice. Each and every person that has contributed miles, steps, or awareness and shared it has inspired me more than most of you will ever know. That’s when I realized that this was an important community, not just a campaign. We are all here for each other, to lean on each other when times are tough, to inspire us when we are down, and share in the victories together. A victory for one of us is a victory for all on #TeamBrandon. When I stood on the starting line at the 2016 Olympic Trials with the Vasculitis Foundation Logo over my heart, I was standing on the line for all of us! It was victory we all got to celebrate. My only regret is that we didn’t get to celebrate one more day in Eugene, OR at Hayward field with a spot in the 1500m final. If that’s my only regret on the track this year, I can happily close the book on 2016 and look forward to what 2017 has in store for #TeamBrandon!

Before I leave you all, I would like to thank a few people. To start, my wonderful Mom and Dad who have shown more love than I knew was possible for their children. As you can see below, they are the glue that holds this family together.
Don't mess with us! - The Hudgins
My partner Ryanna, who has stood by my side through some incredibly difficult times both physically and emotionally. She makes me a stronger person. My Coach, James Snyder, who has believed in my talent and work ethic to fight through all the physical and emotional challenges I’ve had. My siblings, Tyler and Calli, who are the coolest siblings I could ever ask for and who have my back no matter how many times we have all pissed each other off. My best friend, Moen, who I’ve shared thousand of miles with and possibly even more words than miles. If someone would let us, we may solve all the world’s problems. Ed Becker and Joyce Kullman who fought for the VF #TeamBrandon campaign and listened to all my crazy ideas and have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make everything happen. You guys rock! And last but certainly not least, everyone on #TeamBrandon. My goal is to inspire you all as much as you have inspired me! We are all more together!

So what's next? Well I'm still currently sponsor-less and jobless, but more determined than ever to find a way to make a living in the sport I love. The rest of 2016 will be relatively quiet on the racing front, but stay tuned. I've managed to wedge my foot in the door of professional track and field, so now it's time to kick the #!%^*$& open! Time to rest up and get ready for an even bigger 2017!

Honoring our brother Cameron Magnum Bean the best way we know how! #CamLives

Till next time,

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Storm known as the Olympic Trials

If I had to pick one word to describe my Olympic Trials experience I would say overwhelming.  I’ve competed in front of that many people before, but never with the possibility of an Olympic Birth, the pinnacle of our sport, on the line.  I can honestly say I’ve never felt so much love standing in front of 22k+ people each day.  I didn’t even get a big cheer during announcements, but I knew there were thousands of people worldwide that had their eyes on #TeamBrandon.  I’ve had some brief moments of success over the last 2 years that have brought moderate amounts of exposure and media attention, but just mentioning the word Olympics gets people excited.  Telling random people that don't know anything about the sport that I was training for the Olympic Trials this summer immediately got their attention. Because of the lack of publicity our sport receives, most people don't understand how hard it is to make the Team. 30 people in my event qualified for the Trials, 27 went home with different levels of disappointment. As we saw one race after another at the Trials, even the heavy favorites that on paper look like sure beats, don't make it. This is why I always hesitate to answer "yes" when people ask that question. I was training for a chance to represent my country at the Olympics, everyone in that field had a chance, some a lot more than others, but statistically everyone had a chance.

With it being an Olympic year people care more about the Trials. I have had numerous big races and big results over the past 1.5 years, but non of them at all have gained as much interest as when I was officially in the Olympic Trials. It's not to say that people haven't paid attention to my moderate amount of success, but because that moderate amount of success lead to me being able to use the words "Olympic" Trials, people took more notice. Just a quick glance of my social media profiles and one will quickly notice the sharp contrast in followers and reactions leading into the Trials. I don't fault people for this, it's just an unfortunate circumstance of our sport. Leading into the Trials I got hundreds of texts, calls, emails, and social media messages of well wishes headed into the Trials.  If I had been a big name super star heading into the Super Bowl or World Series, I'd have been accustomed to this, but being a distance runner who rarely receives much media attention, it was shocking, but not unsuspected. It was humbling at the least to see the impact myself and my family has made. If you are one of the people that sent something during that time and I haven’t gotten back to you, I promise I am going to find time to respond to each and everyone of you personally.  All of you have given me purpose beyond my wildest expectations this year, and each one of you has earned a response with your out pouring of love.  

When I partnered with the Vasculitis Foundation this year and we created #TeamBrandon as part of the Victory Over Vasculitis Campaign, I had no idea it would grow so quickly.  Though my Olympic Dream will have to last another 4 years now, we still have a long way to go to raise Vasculitis Awareness and the millions that suffer each and every year.  I told Ed and Joyce when we started this campaign that if we could just inspire a few people that I would consider the campaign a success.  Well if the messages I have gotten over the last few months are any indication of the number of people we have reached, we surpassed that number by a landslide.  So thank you from the bottom of my heart from everyone who has become invested in #TeamBrandon and my journey for Olympic Glory.

Qualifying for the Olympic Trials has been a goal of mine since I was in high school.  I dreamed of making Olympic Teams and wearing the USA singlet in the Olympic Games.  Well life happens and dreams get murky.  As many of you now know, I watched the last 2 Olympic Trials in 2008 and 2012 from the comfort of my living room.  In 2008 I was hell bent on one day getting back to that level.  In 2012 I didn’t know if it would ever be possible.  I was tired of training and trying to get ready to qualify, only to have my health with my Vasculitis flare up and me not get the chance.  So to walk out on the starting line for the 1st round of the Olympic Trials, at the Holy Grail of track and field Hayward Field, was overwhelming to say the least.  

Hayward Field in all it's glory 
Hayward Field and the University of Oregon are the track and field equivalent of University of Alabama and Paul Bryant.  Bill Bowerman coached there, and later helped found Nike Running, Steve Prefontaine ran their and captured the nation’s heart while chasing Olympic Glory.  The list just starts there and runs to present day.  They are the only place in the country that can continuously put butts in seats for track and field.  Eugene, Oregon may be the only place in the USA where you can tell a casual person that you are a professional track and field athlete and they understand what that means.  The fans and spectators know when to clap, when to yell, they understand race tactics, they have favorites and enemies.  I’ve seen them boo athletes and boo races when they turn into jog fest.  They are knowledgeable and paid to see good races.  Everywhere you go in town there are relics of track and field legends.  Restaurants have dishes named after famed Oregon stars, pictures adorn the walls of legends eating in the restaurant.  It’s the only place in America where a track and field athlete can feel like celebrity.
"No pre-race nerves here"
 Even Brandon Hudgins who was ranked 16th in the 1500m was recognized numerous times out eating and running on the trails.  You contrast this environment with my pre trials tune up race at Princeton University, where there was a handful of fans in the stadium and the athletes outnumbered the fans probably 3 to 1.  Hayward Field seems like the Super Bowl even at a non Olympic Trials meet.  So even if I had stepped onto the starting line on July 7th as a novice without my painful journey to the line, it could be a bit nerve racking.

I was naive enough to think going in that I was going to be able to keep my nerves in check.  But boy was I wrong.  It’s not the most nervous I have ever been (that title still belongs to my first race back from my first bout with my GPA back in 2010, where I nearly threw up on the starting line I was so nervous), but I hadn’t been that nervous in years.  It’s not that I was at
My "Oh Shit moment"
Hayward Field, it’s not that there was 22k people in attendance, it’s not that it was the Olympic Trials, it’s not what all I had been through to get to the starting line, it was all of it, wrapped into a nice little nervous ball in my
chest.  Normally the nerves go away as soon as the gun goes off, but I didn’t get lost in the collective of the race until after about 400m.  In fact, I had a thought after passing the finish line on the first lap as I glanced up at the jumbotron video board and around at the stands,

“Oh shit, I’m racing at Hayward Field in the Olympic Trials right now, and it’s not a dream.”  Of course with the falls and pushing and shoving in my 1st round race, my stray mind quickly turned to the task at hand, getting to the finish line on my feet and in the top 6.  As many you have seen now from the race footage, several collisions happened during my 1st round race that resulted in falls and me not getting an automatic
qualifying spot for the semi final.  Luckily enough our heat went fast enough for me to nab a time qualifying spot for the semi final without filing a protest (something that plagued the distance races).  
Carnage on the track

The 2nd round turned out to be a race much more like I thought would happen.  The pace was slow from the gun and no one was interested in leading in the rain and letting others draft off them.  I thought I had worked myself into a good position with 600m to go to get ready for a big last 400m.  The move came a little earlier than expected as we rounded the home stretch turn with 500m to go.  In a lot of races I have run in the past few years, when people make moves that hard that quick, they generally start to fade over the last 200-300 meters of the race and I can pick them off one by one.  Well that simply wasn’t the case.  I made the decision to not follow the lead and I paid for it.  All of the guys in the field were capable of a sub 55 second last 400m and accelerating into that from 500m shouldn’t have been a surprise.  
It was hard for me to admit it right after the race, but experience got me on that day.  I thought I could out smart people, but in reality I needed to not think and just race.  It was disappointing getting knocked out earlier than expected.  My goal was to come to the Trials and finish in the Top 10.  I knew it would take a perfect race on the perfect day for me to get one of those Top 3 positions that are going to Rio, but those things happen.  So not being in the final was a big blow.  My body was ready.  There is nothing that I would change in training or racing in retrospect, so the only person I have to blame is myself and my decisions.  It’s something to learn from going forward.  Something that will serve me well in races over the remainder of the season and at National Championships and Olympic Trials in the future.  I may be 29 years old, but my professional running career is probably only 1.5 years old, so I really have the experience of a 24 year old.  So with that math I’ll be 28 at the next Olympic Trials and in the prime of my career.  

Since I was done racing with 2 days of the Trials left, I actually got to spectate at the event. I saw 2 high school kids get 4th and 5th in the 200m, the ageless wonder Benard Lagat make his 5th Olympic Team (that's right, I said 5), wonder how I would've done in the 1500m final with a fast pace, and watch Brenda Martinez make the 1500m team after falling in the 800m final and missing on berth in her strongest event. In fact, that race was probably the highlight of the meet for me. Seeing Brenda in her 6th race in 9 days fight for the last spot on the Olympic Team was a true tear jerker. I don't even know why. There is stories of triumph and tragedy in every race. I just could see the fight in her as a person and athlete. To watch an athlete with everything on the line, get every
1500m from my seat in the stands
ounce of energy out of her body, was truly inspiring. Luckily the sun was out for a bit and I had sunglasses on, because my eyes were filled with tears. Probably because on some weird level I thought that I would have tears for my story that day. Tears for my story came later that day at a much more unexpected time. After I dropped my coach, James Snyder, off at the Portland airport Sunday night, I drove away and just started crying. For me that was my moment when it all came real. The experience was now behind me and it was time to move on. All those years on the roller coaster of comebacks, celebration, anxiety, training, running, and suffering to get to that point and it was over, and not to be found for another 4 years. Gone faster than I could truly take it all in, but so is the way of life. While I was there I thought I would be able to enjoy it all, but it was hard for me to when I was there to accomplish my goals on the track. In retrospect maybe that was a bad thing, maybe it was a good thing. I'll never know. But it was the right decision at the time and I am happy to live with that decision.

I am not done this racing this year, and I’m not going to be done anytime soon.  I’ll race as long as these legs will allow me.  I still have things I want to accomplish in the
sport and off the track.  So my legs better hold up for at least 4 more years.  Cause I don’t have time for them not to!  Below you will find my tentative race schedule for the remainder of the season. If I haven't gotten to your area of the country yet, maybe there is a race in your area soon.

I’d like to also take the time to thank everyone that contributed to #TeamBrandon’s success this year.  Whether we shared miles, races, words of encouragement, laughs, tears, wisdom, nonsense, etc… you should all be proud that we made it!  I’d also can’t thank everyone enough that helped my Family make the trip.  In the midst of all the chaos of the week of the Olympic Trials, it was amazing to have my family there with me.  I’d wouldn’t have been the same without them there.  They have all seen me at my worst, so I am truly grateful that they got to see me compete.  Without my family I am nothing.  So from the bottom of my heart I thank each and everyone of you that donated or helped make the trip west possible.  

We aren't done yet!

2016 Race Schedule

7/23/16 - Beat the Heat 5k / NC USATF 5k Championship - Kernersville, NC

8/5/16 - Sir Walter Miler - Raleigh, NC
8/11/16 - Service Now West Chester Mile - West Chester, PA
8/20/16 - Falmouth Mile - Falmouth, MA
9/11/16 - Grandma's Minnesota Mile - Duluth, MN
9/17/16 - Liberty Mile - Pittsburgh, PA
***More to come***

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Inspiration vs Hope

The words hope and inspiration get used a lot in in everyday life without much thought.  In fact they are probably a little overused, but that's just my own judgmental opinion.  So many people have stories that inspire or bring people hope in nearly every walk of life. I feel they are especially abused in the athletic and even the vasculitis communities.  Most people will never give the two words much thought, but I want that to change.  The definitions of hope and inspiration are often used in the same context and nearly interchangeable, I want to explain the difference and make you think before deciding which words to use in your next conversation.  The definitions are as follows: 
      Hope: a feeling of expectation or desire for a certain thing to happen, want something to happen or be the case

      Inspiration: fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

Hope is someone feeling a sense of expectation whereas inspiration is to fill someone with the urge to do or feel something.  The difference is in the expectation.  Many people know that life has a way of ruining your expectations or desires.  Those desires are what can be dangerous.  We all have things we desire, including me, but we all won't be able to reach those desires.  That certainly doesn't mean that we shouldn't reach for those desires, it's that we should learn to be happy if we don't meet those desires or expectations.  You never know what obstacles life will bring. 

Some of you may already know I have a bit of a personal vendetta against the word hope.  In fact for those that don't know I have the phrase "All Hope is Gone" tattooed across my chest adorned with roses on either side.  
I have found the beauty in that statement.  

Many people upon seeing it often think that it is very sad, and depressing. In fact I find it to be quite the contrary.  When you have been through all the ups and downs that I have I have found a lot of comfort in the process and try not to be so attached to the outcome (notice I say try).  When people use the word hope it makes me cringe.  To me hope is something that is wishful or fictitious that you have little control over the outcome, but will be deeply sad if it doesn't come true.  You hear tons of statements like: "I hope to make the Olympic Team" "I hope to be in remission," "I hope to find love one day," "We have hope to get that job," "I hope to move to...etc."  These phrases and thoughts can become a prison in a sense.  People that suffer from a rare disease, or any other of the hundreds of issues that life can hand you, can have all the hope in the world for an outcome.  I think that hope can be misplaced and often causes people to fall harder when that wish or yearning isn't fulfilled.  It wasn't until I realized that all the hoping and yearning in the world wasn't going to change my outcome, so why not find a more useful place for that energy.

I prefer to give people inspiration instead giving them hope.  That difference may seem trivial to most people, but as someone that has suffered from depression and anxiety issues around my health and my athletic performance, changing my mind set from hope has given me the strength to carry on with my dream.  I have realized that the things I desire or yearn for may never come true, and that's alright.  I want to give people the inspiration I have for them to chase their dreams without the crutch of hope.  Chase your dreams like hell and don''t be afraid to take some risk.  Let go of hope before you take that first step, know that failure will be apart of that process. Learn to get cozy with failure.  Acknowledge it, learn from it, get back up and keep walking.  My all time favorite Rocky Balboa quote is, "Life isn't about who can hit the hardest.  It's about who can get hit and keep moving forward."  Many Vasculitis patients can relate to this statement.  In fact I heard it at such a perfect time for me, while I was in the hospital for a week with kidney failure, 85% hearing loss and a load of other issues I was experiencing right after my original diagnosis with Granulomatosis with Polyangitis in 2008.  That quote resonated deeply with me and has stuck with me ever since.  It hasn't always been easy to live, but now I know that I can handle whatever shit life throws at me and keep moving forward.  I want to give people the strength and tools (the inspiration) for when they are down and out with life dealing with whatever shit storm life has handed them.  The hardest part is standing back up, but if you keep getting back up (even if you barely seem alive) you will find a lot of strength in knowing that you can take on the next hit whenever and wherever it comes from!

Hope does nothing, inspiration gives you the tools to succeed.

Till next time,


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Everything Has Changed and Yet Nothing Has Changed at All...

The last few weeks have been hell of a roller coaster to say the very least.  Basically a microcosm of my life in just a few weeks.  The photo above was taken mere moments after my first sub 4 minute mile, I was elated but that look is full of so many emotions; I can see my thoughts in that picture, the gravity of the situation still not having set in.  On Friday, August 7th 2015, I finally became a Sub 4 Minute Miler by finishing 5th in a time of 3:59.67 at the Sir Walter Miler in Raleigh, NC.  I can now say looking back that Friday night August 7th, 2015 was one of the best nights of my entire life.  Not only did I break 4 minutes after all the struggles my life has held, but I got to do it in front of my parents, girlfriend, and so many friends.  For those few hours that night I was on cloud 9!  All the miles, the struggles, the highs, the depression, and the anxiety was worth it.  The next few days were absolutely overwhelming with the out pour of messages and feedback from social media, emails, texts, phone calls, high fives and congratulations.  All this lead to such a feeling of triumph that I hadn't experienced in my life yet.  That night I finally felt like everything had changed.  I thought my moment was here and it was here to stay.  I felt lighter and more confident than I ever remember feeling, the this picture below says it all!

Fast forward nearly 3 weeks now and not much in my life has really changed.  I guess that's just the hangover after every big party.  Nothing I have done to this point in my life really prepared me for that hangover feeling from such a high.  The high and dreams I had felt so tangible and I know things had changed. So what hasn't changed?  I am still sitting at the same 40 hour a week job, I'm still broke and can barely afford travel to races, I still have trouble even getting into a lot of races, and I still don't have one single company that seems to get the big picture that I envision and live.  Maybe I was delusional, but I thought for sure with my story, my personality, and now my time to go with that lethal combo, that sponsors would finally see some value in me as an athlete.  From my side of the story I feel like no one can see the vision I and so many others seem to see.  I've been getting the same response from companies that I have for years now, which I titled the ole pat on the back email.  My response back from nearly every company that has been contacted has read something like this, "Congratulations on your Sub 4!  Your results are impressive and your story is inspiring.  Unfortunately our roster and budget full at this time.  We would love for you to keep in contact with us for the future."  It's, good job out there pat on the back parents give their kids when they are playing youth league sports and aren't quite good enough to keep up with their peers.  I have been getting some version of this email from companies in the running world for 4 years since Saucony dropped me in 2012 from a gear only sponsorship (while I was of course suffering from a relapse with Wegener's, #findyourstrong right?).  It used to make me angry and bitter.  Now though it makes me question if companies really have any foresight outside of a number.

As I have often professed I have reached the point where I am often one of the only if not the only person in the race with a full time job, much less the 2 that I have to work to afford all my bills (yes I still have medical bills and health bills to pay, drugs aren't cheap).  I work my Resort job to pay my bills and personal train & coach to pay for my travel.  I know that this takes its toll on my body at times and my training suffers.  Just one week to the day after my first sub 4, I had to skip a pm run after work because of how late I got off that night.  Those pm runs, especially after workouts, are so crucial to fitness and aerobic metabolism, that it drives me insane knowing that all my competition was able to go out for their runs that day.  Being a control freak like I am, this drives me absolutely insane.  Knowing that I am not doing everything that I need to in order to be successful at the Professional Track and Field level, literally keeps me awake at night.

Now that Runner's World and Let' ( the guru's of everything track and field) has picked up on my story, I thought it would help my case.  But while the shoe world isn't paying attention, certainly the Vasculitis community has taken notice.  Not only has the Lauren Currie Twilight Foundation (I run with their logo on my jersey) shared my story, but so has the Vasculitis Foundation, which is the largest foundation for all forms of Vasculitis not just Wegener's.  The out pour of messages. emails, and Facebook notifications has been overwhelming to deal with once they shared the story with their followers.  According to one source inside the Vasculitis Foundation, my story has been shared over 4,000 times.  Now both want to not just do interviews but have me involved with a documentary and more to help inspire people with all forms of Vasculitis to not let the diseases control their lives.  While I may have struck out with the shoe companies, I seem to have hit a home run with a community that as just as dear to my heart! So I'm classic BHudg fashion I'm gonna find a way to keep chasing my dream and finding a way to inspire others in all walks of life.

All Hope is Gone! 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Short Term Memory

One of the best qualities an athlete can have is short term memory loss. This may seem contrary to the normal thought process of the successful athlete, but learning to deal with mistakes and failure properly helps make you a more successful athlete.  Successful elite athletes have the ability to put mistakes behind them and move forward. The nature of a hard working distance runner is almost completely contradictory to this philosophy. As distance runners we are taught that repeated hard work week after week leads to success. This is absolutely true, but unfortunately things don't always go as planned.

Coaches can make mistakes in training or an athlete can make an error in a race. How you as a coach or athlete handle these mistakes can give you the mental edge to succeed on the track and in life.
Learning from mistakes makes you a better athlete, but obsessing over them can lead to intimidation and fear. These emotions hinder athletic performance.  Runners can learn a lot from successful golfers and quarterbacks. Both of these athletes are some of the world’s most mentally tough and smart athletes.

If any of you have ever picked up a golf club you know how extremely frustrating a bad shot shanked into the woods can make you feel. For us novice golfers, this anger and frustration generally carries over to the next shot. Putting more pressure on the next shot is only going to compound the already bad situation. Golfers have to be in the present, and forget how great or awful the shot was that got them to their current spot. Focusing on the challenge in front of you is where you need to channel your energy. Fear of the next shot or putt is only going to hamper progress and create negative thoughts. 

Often times after a bad shot you will watch the golfer take another swing to feel and recognize where they made and error. Once they recognize this mistake they are on to the next shot. Elite quarterbacks are much the same way. Many of us have seen Tom Brady throw an interception or two during crucial games and of course his string of cuss words that follow on national TV. What separates Tom from a lot of other quaterbacks is his ability to come back out the next series and not be afraid of making throws. You see him go to the sideline and discuss his mistake with the coaches, then it is on to planning for the next series. He doesn’t let those mistakes affect him the rest of the game. In fact Tom is known for his nerves of steel during those crucial final minutes of close games.  Regardless of his mistakes early in the game he is able to still have confidence in his physical and mental ability as an athlete to do make the throws to win the game. You don’t make five Super Bowls without having a clutch gene!

So many times throughout my athletic career I have been incapable of letting mistakes go. Holding these mistakes and failures can drive you crazy and create unneeded stress and pressure. One crucial part of becoming a complete athlete is learning how to fail. Unless you are an undefeated Olympic Champion and World Record holder (Herb Elliott from 1957-1961 is the only one that comes to mind), chances are there you are going to get beat from time to time. This means that a bad race or bad workout needs to be left on the track.  These moments are teaching lessons not obsession points. I recently have fallen victim to not listening to my own advice. Last weekend while running the 1500 at Raleigh Relays I made several crucial mistakes during the race. Since then it has been hard for me to stop playing the race over and over in my head. Nothing about that race is going to change no matter how many times I replay that race. 

I made the mistake of not being close enough to the rabbit and leaders and wasted a lot of crucial mental energy battling several runners, while trying to get back on pace. Once the kicking began I was already out of mental energy and not ready for the final push to the finish. Immediately after the race I knew where I made strategic errors, but since then I have desperately wanted that race back to do over, but we all know short of a time machine being invented this week that won’t happen. I’m 
sure that many of you experience the same feeling after losing a race you thought you could win. So how do we apply the golfer and quarterback principles to running? The first step is learning to let go of failure. Holding on to failure can create doubt and fear. These emotions can lead to more crucial mistakes through fear of failure. One helpful thing that I have used recently is image of skeet shooting. I imagine that my mistakes and stress are crammed into a clay disk in my mind. I then hurl this disk out into the field and use a giant rocket launcher to obliterate these stresses. This also allows me to make light of these mistakes and realize that in reality these mistakes aren’t a big deal in the scope of the world’s problems.
This allowed me to go into my track workout on Tuesday with a clear mind and confidence that I will bounce back from my failure in my next race. Failing to achieve your desired results in a workout or race is not the end of the world or your career. There are always more workouts and races to be run. The happiness must come in the journey and the effort you put forth to achieve your goals. So continue to take chances and even if you have failed before, because if you never take chances and let fear from previous failures handcuff you, then you will never reach your full potential as an athlete or person!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Why Run?

All runners evidently get asked this question, "So, why do you run?"  It may even be followed by my favorite line, "What are you running from?"  Which of course always garners the response "I don't know, if I knew I probably would've stopped."  We get bombarded by the question almost daily from people of all shapes and sizes.  So it is a question all runners have to be comfortable answering.  If you are like myself, many runners also find themselves at times asking, "Self, why are you doing this?  You know you don't have to do it.  So why don't you just stop?  There are other activities that aren't nearly as hard."  All runners have to remind themselves from time to time why we do it.  Running is so simple and so ingrained in our genetics, yet the answer to why we do it can become very complicated.

I have so many reasons why I keep running at 29 years old, but the strange things is I don't remember why I started running?  I started running when I was 10 years old because my neighbor coached the local club team and his son was a good friend of mine.  Other than that it's hard for me to remember what the hell that kid was thinking.  I don't know what made me want to do it.  But I wanted to, and I wanted to bad.  So bad that I bugged my father incessantly to let me run a local club cross-country race.  When he finally got sick of my nagging, he took me over a 1 mile loop and told me I could race that weekend if I could run the 1 mile loop twice without stopping.  He of course thought I would fail,  I of course wanted to do it bad enough that I didn't stop.  And while I have temporarily walked away from the sport twice in my adult life, that same fire comes back.  I may never be able to remember what 10 year old Brandon was thinking.  Hell, I don't even remember what 12 year Brandon was thinking picking cross-country over football, considering I grew up idolizing Joe Montana and Steve Young.  But the list of reasons why I run gets longer every year.  Channeling these reasons into positive energy, is something that keeps me going and silences the inner bitch when things are tough.

So to answer the question, why do I run?  And more importantly why am I still running at 29 years old after battling an auto-immune system disease, panic attacks, depression, and anxiety?  I run because I still have something to prove to myself.  I run because I still have something to prove to everyone else.  I run because I don't want to let my vasculitis disease beat me.  I don't want depression to beat me.  I don't want anxiety to beat me.  I run to express myself.  I run to belong.  I run to stand out.  I run to show off.  I run to compete.  I run because I am good at it.  I run because I'm not the best at it.  I run to hide.  I run to feel free.  I run because I am an addict.  I run to relieve stress.  I run because if I don't it causes stress.  I run to see how far I can push my body.  I run to see how far I can push my mind.  I run because I enjoy the pain.  I run because I enjoy hard work.  I run to better myself.  I run to socialize.  I run to be antisocial.  I run because it brings excitement to my life.  I run because I don't know how to stop.

Most importantly now, I run because like it or not it's who I am!