Here’s a little background of the history of the Pasadena Pacers and how we came up with our ideals.
In the early days, we used to all wait for the last runner to come in from all of the long runs. We often made a victory arch and at the very least cheered for all of the runners coming in. Since we all waited for the last runner, there were more people cheering for the slower runners and very few or even no cheerleaders for the fast runners. It came to pass that the last runner was the most important runner. It seemed like that person came to represent for each of us the victory of overcoming adversity in life. We all held the deepest admiration for the last runner, a person to whom we could flow admiration and help. Each week we left with spiritual boost – because of the last runner.
I still remember Her. She lost 67 pounds, quit taking all of her drugs, and went on to run 16 Marathons. She was 60 years old when she started with us. She made tough men turn their faces to avoid being seen suppressing tears. I have no doubt that she was the inspiration for many runners to go the extra mile. If you are a slow poke, you are probably causing the same effect. I can tell you this; I remember Mary well – I have forgotten who the fastest runner was. I believe this will always be the case with the Pacers. The clubs that revere the fastest runners and neglect the accomplishments of the slow folks have different goals. To elevate the spirits of men, while pretending to be just running is my goal. Go fast if you like, if it makes your spirit soar. Slow down once in a while and take a look at the fellow next to you, running or walking a 16 miler together can open the door to the soul. If you are a pre-conditioner, all it takes is running your first 3 minutes together.
My son won the Santa Anita Derby Days event in 1996. He was just 8 years old at the time and the only runner in his age category. We were running the 10K and late in the race were in 2nd to the last place. Sean was exhausted and the last place runner was about to pass us. She was a woman who was probably in her early sixties and was just plodding along. We were closing in on the finish line, about half a mile ahead and She told us to go on ahead of her. She gave a lot of encouragement to my son, told him that he had the heart of a champion and that he would probably do something very great one day. Then I noticed something about the woman. Even though she was probably one of the oldest runners and would finish dead last, she wasn’t even breathing hard. When I asked her if she was tired she told me that she had always maintained this pace. She had run 20 Marathons at that pace and didn’t mind being last. I finished the race with Sean ahead by about 20 yards. I never saw the lady again.
A friend saw the imminent finish of a my 10 year old son and quickly formed a victory arch. There were a lot of runners milling around who sensing a momentous event, rushed to join in. The announcer shouted out his name over the PA. There were a lot of atta-boys and pats on the back afterward.
The greatest champion, the one who achieved the greatest victory that day, was the woman who lifted the spirits of an exhausted boy and took away his defeat in made him a champion. That friend, the one who formed the victory arch, that was Bob Lazzarrini, the fellow who came to the Pacers dinner and spoke about overcoming adversity. He would later become the Pacers president.
It was the last runner who lead us to develop the 4th axiom of the Pacers: “Give and receive praise and admiration to those around you.” One never knows just how far their words will reach into the future. Choose them wisely.