My Danny Diaz Moment

When I lined up at the start of the USATF National Club Championships in December, I was a bit of an underdog.  I was running my first XC race in more than 30 years, and it was against what I had been told was the most competitive masters’ field of any race all year.   I was about to be crushed.

But that wasn’t the point.  I was there to compete.  To see what it was like to toe the line with the best of my generation.  I did my preparation as best I could in my busy life and reasoned once I got to that starting line, Que Sera Sera.  What will be will be.

So it wasn’t unlike the underdog runners in McFarland USA: Championship Run, the Disney movie which is being released on DVD this week.  The stakes for them were much higher, and the work they put into their race was well beyond my modest training. But perhaps the real runners that the story was based on, felt something like I felt at that moment when I began to look around at the better-trained, better-outfitted, more-experienced guys who bolted off the line as the gun went off,  “Do I really belong here?”

We all start as a team, but each must face the course alone.

In the movie, the underdog of underdogs, the chubby but charismatic Danny Diaz wins over the hearts of the audience with his persistence in the face of his physical challenges.  He was never going to be the fastest runner, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t part of the team.

For me that day, I was even Dannier than Danny Diaz.  Not only was I carrying extra weight, but also extra years, and extra doubts.  I was pretty sure I was going to finish much closer to the final finisher than the first– and as the field pulled away from me at the start, my doubts became reality.  There was no catching those guys.  I was slow. And to make matters worse, I was not in a Disney movie.

You’ll have to rent or buy McFarland USA: Championship Run to see how Danny rises to his challenges and you’ll have to see the September 2015 issue of Runners World to see how I met mine.

McFARLAND, USA..Ph: Film Frame..?Disney 2015
I, too, was an outsider to the world of cross country. But after my race at Club Nats, I felt like I had earned my place.

But this is no spoiler– by starting that race, by doing that preparation, by committing to that pursuit, Danny and I were already winning.  The future is not ours to see– but the present is ours to savor.  What will be, will be. And today’s race is all we have.

Run hard.  Like there’s no tomorrow.


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