The first time I finished a footrace in high school, my track coach thought about calling an ambulance.
A freshman at Seneca Valley High School, I had just finished dead last in the track team's two-mile run. As this was a scrimmage early in the year, the only competitors were my own teammates ... including the girls' track team.
I knew going into the race that I was out of shape and that most of the other guys would beat me. What I did not expect, is that every single girl would finish ahead of me as well.
As I sprawled out on the ground after finishing, coughing blood and gasping for air, one thought kept repeating in my mind.
"I am never doing this again."
Fourteen years, five marathons, one ultramarathon and thousands of logged miles later, it turns out that I was wrong.
Today, I can't imagine what my life would be like without running — and I'm hoping to find others in Cranberry who feel the same way.
My goal with this occasional column is to open a dialogue with you on a very simple subject: putting one foot in front of the other.
Did you set a new personal record during your last race? Have an inspirational story to tell about your sport? Are you training for your first marathon, or your first 5K race?
Those are all good reasons to hit the "email the author" link at the top of this column and let the world -- or at least all of Cranberry -- know about your accomplishment.
Cranberry has a vibrant running community. Graham Park has been a godsend for local runners since it opened, and the summer season is always packed with road races right in our own backyard.
As I run my usual route down Powell Road, on to Glen Eden Road and then finally up Unionville Road to the Cranberry Park, I always see one or two friendly faces who give a nod or a wave as they head the other way.
What I'd really like to do with this space is start putting some names to those faces.
In other words, this column is your column.
What's that? All runners are crazy? You can't understand why anyone would put themselves through so much punishment?
Well, tell that to the Seneca Valley freshman who got lapped on the track by the entire girls team, and he might agree with you.
Funny thing though, go out and get a few miles under your belt, watch your race times slowly start to drop, and you may come to the same conclusion that I did -- that there is no other sport that lets you know what you are capable of as a human being more so than running.
When you fail, there is no referee to blame, no teammates to point your finger at, no chance to second guess anyone but yourself.
When you succeed, you will find that you are capable of overcoming more adversity than you ever thought possible. In some cases, you will cross the finish line a different person.
Those are the types of stories I hope to share with you in the coming weeks, so don't be shy about getting in touch. Until then, I'll see you on the road.