How many times have you heard the phrase "life is short"? We all say that, but how much do we really GET that? On a daily (and sometimes semi-daily) I encourage you, myself, others to live life. To help others. And to run. About 5 weeks ago my former running coach was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. To say I was shocked was an understatement. And it was the 3rd friend of mine to be diagnosed with cancer within a month. What is the water??!!
And then, just as quickly as the first news was [attempting] to sink in, last Friday, Coach Mike passed away at the young age of 54. A day before his 55th birthday. 4 weeks after getting the news. Yes, life is short.
A little background, Coach Mike was a runner. Not just any runner mind you. But a brilliant ultra runner. He has run countless 100 milers. And of course other race distances as well. In fact just a few months ago, he finally got to run Western States 100 miler. Western States is like Boston Marathon for marathoners. Or Ironman Kona for triathletes. WS is the Mecca of 100 milers or ultra running in general.
Coach Mike didn't always run, he actually smoked till his late 30's. Then a friend introduced him to a 10k running race. He had caught the running fever & quite smoking. A lawyer by profession. A running coach by passion.
I have tears in my eyes as I think back to the times he coached not only me, but COUNTLESS others to PR's (personal best). A love for the trails. A zeal for running free.
I will never forget the one evening at a track workout. I had just PR'd in a half marathon and my time indicted that I got to move up to a faster pace group. I felt like a kid being told I had won the Spelling Bee. Only this was better. Although I don't have a photo of that moment, it will live forever in my heart.
Another memory I have is when I ran my first marathon (26.2miles) as a training run. Its one thing to run a marathon as a race, quite another to run it simply as a training run. He always checked in on me. That morning it was raining HARD the entire time. But I survived. And he congratulated me on my first "marathon for fun". I had "made it".
Coach Mike was like a dad to me. He had the most caring, patient, and kind spirit. Perhaps that's why I will miss him the most. He was a running coach who was not only extremely knowledgeable, but also down to earth, and nonjudgmental. Something rare this day & age.
Coach Mike, a running community not only mourns the lost of a great runner, but a person. A coach. A husband to Jill. A mentor. A friend. My friend.
My next 100 miler will be run in your honor Coach Mike. I will do you proud. And in my heart I will know & feel that you are up above telling me to survive, go slow when it feels like I'm already at a turtle's pace and walk the hills.
I love you Coach Mike. I will miss you. I will run more determined then ever. I will pass on the love of running to everyone I come in contact with. And continue to be an ambassador of trail & ultra-running. And continue to remind people that life IS short. Live every day that you can. And ALWAYS, ALWAYS, help others.
If you would like to leave a tribute in honor of Coach Mike, here are 3 foundations that are accepting donations in his honor.
Team Labrecque (uniting against lung cancer)
Post photo is Coach Mike just after he finished running Western States 100 miler.