I can think of no greater compliment than to be called “a sportsman” or “the gentleman of running.” I have to go back to before I was a professional runner and before I was at UCLA—even before high school cross country—to find when sportsmanship became important to me.
Honestly, coming from a large family, it was just something that was always there. When you have as many siblings as I do, you have to be a people person by default. But high school cross country is where it really blossomed.
I’d finish a race, and then go back 100 meters and cheer on my teammates. Then you’d all cool down together. Change out shoes together. Jump around together to celebrate the wins and high-five for the effort in losses. For such an individual sport, I was in love with the team element. And I carried that with me through college and as a professional.
“One team, one dream” has become a little clichéd. But the message still rings true. You celebrate the accomplishments of others, just as they are quick to celebrate yours. Whether it’s in Green Bay, a Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon or at Cherry Blossom in D.C., everywhere you go, there are runners that you have a connection with.
I’ve never considered myself as someone who has “fans.” I have fellow runners. That’s why I love to give high-fives—regardless of whether it’s another professional runner or the people I’m pacing in a half marathon. I’ll drop back from the pack just to give high-fives. It can get a little crazy on course because people want to stop and take a selfie and I’m trying to keep a pace going. But I also use that time to think about every high-five someone has given me.
This can be a very isolating sport. But it doesn’t have to be. I love cheering for people and I love when they cheer for me. So next race, give a complete stranger a high-five. I think you’ll find you enjoy it just as much as they do.