“See you in Boise!” Running Life Lesson #3
One morning, in the fall of 1994, after finishing a subpar practice where I lagged behind the United States Military Academy Varsity Cross Country team, my team captain sat next to me while we stretched.
The year before, my junior year, our team finished 6th in the nation at the NCAA Division I Championships in Lehigh, PA. My senior year we had another shot at qualifying for Nationals and were working hard to reach that goal. Nationals were scheduled to be run in Boise, ID. Mike Bernstein, our fastest runner and highly respected in the collegiate running community, was the team captain that year. He began stretching next to me without saying a word. Mike had already received All-American honors and had a good shot at repeating that feat our senior year. He would eventually go on to train in the Army World Class Athlete program and take a shot at competing in the Olympics during the 2000 Olympic Trials, a few years later.
Mike and I had become close and I respected him. He pushed me to compete at a high level and never allowed me to “slack” in our practices and always expected my best as the “number two” runner on our team. As our stretching session ended, Mike sprang up to his feet and offered his hand to help me up. “I noticed you lagging a little behind the team today in practice.” Mike stated in a matter-of-fact tone as he helped me to my feet. “Yeah, I was not feeling the run today, Mike.” I responded apathetically back.
Mike paused and put his hand on my shoulder while looking intently into my eyes. “See you in Boise, Rheam.” He lightly squeezed my shoulder and walked off towards the barracks area. “See you in Boise.” I hated it when he said that! He never accepted an excuse or wanted to hear my reasons, he would just say “See you in Boise.” That became our mantra all season. Whenever someone came up with an excuse for why they could not perform properly, someone would say “See you in Boise.”
Our team had tasted success the previous year. We were developing a strong distance running program at West Point, one that the Academy, the cadets and alumni could be proud of. It took dedication and swagger to go and compete at each cross country meet with the intent and drive to win. Mike Bernstein knew we needed a clear vision for the season and wanted to make sure he communicated it effectively. “See you in Boise,” was his way of constantly reminding us of the ultimate goal, the National Championships.
Our team practiced hard that year and at the Regional Qualifier, in Boston, we missed qualifying for Nationals and the opportunity to compete in Boise. I missed qualifying individually by eight seconds. It was a bitter pill to swallow and I will always remember the gut wrenching feeling knowing that I had just competed in my last collegiate cross country race, just short of my goal. One of our runners did make it to Nationals; however, and it was our team captain, Mike Bernstein. He went on to finish in the top 25 in the country which earned him “All American” status.
Mike had the vision set in his mind and worked harder than the rest of us. He implemented a plan and executed it perfectly. He did not allow for distractions and kept his eyes focused on what he planned to accomplish in Boise, ID. Mike embraced the vision of Nationals that year. I missed competing in Nationals by eight seconds and I know why I missed it. I did not catch the vision and I was not fully willing to sacrifice for the goal.
We all want to succeed in life and we all have our “Boise”. The question is, are you willing to do what it takes to get there? Mike Bernstein did and I did not. Don’t be like me and go out there and get your ticket punched for your “Boise”.
Here are five things I learned from Mike Bernstein’s example to help you accomplish your goals:
- Crystallize the vision for your life. Where do you ultimately want to go?
- Develop a list of tasks that will get you started towards your goal.
- Take the first step and start with task #1.
- Have an accountability partner to help you stay on track.
- Don’t be afraid to fail and never quit!
I will see YOU in Boise!