Rediscovering My Passion Of The Sport

[Authors note:

My name is Andrew Cantor and I am grateful to have been recently accepted into the Chaski Coaching Residency Program. My desire to join Chaski is to collaborate with other members of the team, furthering my knowledge of all aspects of running. Most importantly, however, to give back to the sport and share my passion for it with everyone I interact with. ]

I first began running my freshman year of school for the cross country team. I initially joined the team to meet people and socialize, however, that soon changed as I immediately fell in love with the idea of chasing tangible goals and competing. Running is such a simple activity yet is also a complicated art form. Despite being the slowest runner on the team my freshman year, I committed to being the best version of myself and developed a passion for the sport.

My high school running career could not have gone more perfectly. I never experienced any injuries and nearly achieved all of my goals. As mentioned previously, I was the slowest runner on the cross country team my freshman year and the slowest member of the distance squad on the indoor and outdoor track teams. I did not let my lack of natural ability interfere with achieving my dreams. I learned throughout my high school career that if I remained passionate and dedicated that the sky was the limit. By the time I had graduated, I had earned 1st team all-conference and all-county honors, our team won the conference, county, and regional titles. I was also the first person from my school to qualify for the state track meet in the 3200 in 5+ years. I decided to continue my running career for Salisbury University, a Division III school on the eastern shore of Maryland.

In college, my passion for the sport would be tested. It was the first time(s) where I battled injuries. It was the first time, where I struggled academically and athletically. I lasted two full years on the cross country and track teams before deciding to hang up the spikes. I had enough. I felt helpless to my teammates as I was not pushing them in practice. While they ran intervals, I was in the pool or spending time with the athletic trainers. That sense of helplessness as well as the ever ending circle of rehab, cross-training, and injury led me to quit after my sophomore year, not able to take the disappointment anymore. I was burned out and fell out of love with running. The passion was gone.

After two years of occasional running, I realized something was missing in my life. I was finishing my MBA at Salisbury. I was actually very happy with my life; my grades were great, my social life and family life were phenomenal but something was still missing. I was lacking a running goal. At the time I didn't have the desire to chase down 5K PB’s because the idea of running hard intervals possessed no appeal. I started to run more continuously hoping a goal would come to me. On one morning run, it occurred to me, I was going to run the Baltimore Marathon in the fall. If things went really well, I would even obtain a Boston Qualifier. As training progressed, I started to feel like my high school self again, feeling fulfilled by the pursuit of this tangible goal.

I toed the line for the Baltimore Marathon on October 17, 2014, with no idea of what lied ahead. As the gun went off, I found the 3:05 pace group. What felt like a jog for 15 miles turned into a harder effort which led to ‘hitting the wall.’ Although the race did not go as planned (finished in 3:09 with a ten-minute positive split), I was hooked. I loved marathon training and had found my happy place.

Since this race, I have joined the Baltimore Based running club, Falls Road Running Team (sponsored by Falls Road Running store, the best local running store there is) and have re-established my passion for the sport. Joining this team has 110% re-invigorated my pursuit to achieve my goals in running. Since joining, I ran PRs in the Road 5K, 8K, dropped my 10-mile time by over seven minutes, chopped off five minutes in my half marathon, and lowered my marathon PR to 2:44:42. I have even completed a trail 50K which is totally out of my wheelhouse.

Throughout my journey, three major lessons have contributed to my athletic success which I've also applied to life.

The first is to support others. When a teammate or co-worker discusses a seemingly outlandish goal, it is important to support them in their endeavors. Check-in on them and support their goals. Be empathetic for when they fall short and celebrate when they succeed.

When my workouts went poorly or the weeks were inconsistent, it helped to be able to vent to my teammates who were sympathetic and helped me get back on track. For example, in the winter of 2019, I suffered my first major injury. After being accepted into the New York City Marathon, I suffered a pinched nerve in my back which sidelined me for nearly 6 weeks and required lots of hours with my PT and rehab at home. However, the support of my teammates and encouragement to get strong at PT kept me focused. I returned stronger than ever and ran several PRs in the ensuing build-up, which was capped off with 2:44:42 (5 minute PB) at NYC.

The second lesson is to attack every day with heart and passion. It is impossible to achieve all of your goals and be successful at absolutely everything you do. However, if you give every day your best and put your heart into your daily activities, good things will happen.

The third lesson -- there is no substitute for hard work. Shortcuts to success do not exist. When you work hard (and smart!) It makes the journey all the more enjoyable. Despite working hard, we will still fall short of our goals. It is important to learn from these occurrences and apply the lessons to future pursuits.

Although my passion for the sport is longstanding, the journey is just beginning. I look forward to growing with Chaski and giving back to the running community which has been so gracious to me over the last 15 years and know there is good to come.