Mark Del Monaco: Life Moves Pretty Fast
June 26, 2013
There are few times when a person finds that one true passion in their life. The thing that gets them out of bed every morning and sometimes can’t put them to sleep at night. Ferris Bueller once said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Reflecting back on the last 15 years of my running career I certainly am grateful to have experienced more than I could have ever imagined when I first put on my first pair of running shoes.
As a kid growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey I often envisioned David Stern calling my name just a few miles away at Madison Square Garden at the NBA draft. I’d often tell my dad I was going to be drafted and he’d never say I wouldn’t be, although looking back I’m sure he realized that the percentages weren’t in my favor. My mom would ask what kind of house I’d buy her. By the time I was 12, I had it memorized: a single level with a wrap around porch. (Old people don’t like walking up steps.) There were endless games of one on one followed by hours in the driveway shooting buzzer-beating game winners. How could I not succeed? But as the growth spurts stopped coming and my feet stopped growing, I realized that sitting at the end of the bench on a 6th grade catholic school team probably wasn’t going to get me very far. My great-uncle had started the running program at my grade school and upon hearing I was willing to give this running thing a serious shot, he had me sprinting laps around a local park, often to exhaustion with my eyes rolling to the back of my head. I certainly did not fall in love with running from the get go. But for a 12 year old, the big thing was that there was no bench. Everyone got to play.
As I transitioned to high school and college I began to take running a bit more seriously. Summers became centered around getting ready for cross country and winter breaks getting ready for track. Originally running laps and laps around the track gave way to what event I could get done the fastest. Unfortunately I learned the hard way that the 800 was not my calling. I was able to find teammates who shared the same passion as me and coaches who believed in me and were willing to give me a shot. Going to school in a city like Philadelphia I found a blue collar work ethic in hopes of chasing my goals. My college coach instilled a chip on my shoulder and an us-against-the-world mentality in me. You might say that he brain-washed us but for a bright-eyed 18 year old willing to do whatever it was to stay in Division I athletics, it was worth it. 5 years came and went and I would say I experienced more lows than highs. I found myself at a cross roads of moving into the real world and realizing that I had not fulfilled my potential in college, so I began to run with a former college teammate of mine in the area on occasion and stayed under my college coach. After a year of training solo and the tragedy of suddenly losing my college coach, I came to a cross roads just a year after hoping to get settled in the post collegiate world.
I had spent the last 6 years in the City of Brotherly Love but I found my desire to keep competing hard pressed. I learned earlier in the year that I qualified for the USA Half Marathon Championships in Duluth, MN so in what seemed like a knee jerk decision I decided to pack my bags and head out to Boulder for 6 weeks prior to the race. I had planned to finish these last 6 weeks of the training block then move on with my life by enlisting in the U.S. Army. (Drowning in college debt isn’t the easiest thing) But as I came out to Boulder it was apparent how it gave me a breath of fresh air (or lack thereof) and reinvigorated my running. Staying with my college teammate and current Boulder Track Club captain, Sean Quigley, I became reinvested and developed that burning desire to prove something if not to anyone else but to myself. Unfortunately due to medical reasons I was told the Army wouldn’t take me, so as I sat at the launch of the Boulder Track Club in Lee Troop’s living room and heard him speak about the club’s mission and future, I instantly knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. So I packed my bags 2 weeks later, said goodbye to family and friends, and moved out to Boulder.