“UB!…. YOU KNOW!” is the Purple Knight motto. In 2009 because of the trust of my coach, Mike Ruane, I had the chance to serve as captain of the University of Bridgeport Cross Country Team. Coach Mike and I connected right off the bat in late 2008 when I inquired about the possibility of finishing my undergraduate degree in Connecticut’s largest city. My niece was born and my sister and brother in law asked me to be Emma’s godfather. Staying close to home was of the utmost importance to me when I was choosing which NCAA Division Two Program, to run for.
Today I had the pleasure and honor of returning to address and cheer on the current Purple Knight Cross Country Team. My father is dying so I guess reflection on my runs these days is normal and healthy. I dug out his Purple University of Bridgeport Dad T-shirt this afternoon and headed over to Hop Brook Lake where I met my old coach. In 2009 we raced a technical eight kilometer course where we had to jump the access fence on top of the Army Corp of Engineers’ Dam. Today the athletes from Bridgeport, Albertus, and Post only had to navigate a 5 K but I warned the guys it would hurt. Shorter races for me always do because you need to push the intensity.
Coach Mike asked me to say a few words to the team before they toed the line. He introduced me as a two time USATF National Champion and three time member of Team USA. Hearing him introduce me like that in front of the next generation of Purple Knights gave me a huge sense of pride. I could hear the excitement in his voice as he spoke about how together we had taken an offseason basketball fitness program into a legit running team. In 2009 we had Brian from Kenya, Rich and Vinny from Long Island, Omar of Latin descent from the baseball team, Elie from Egypt, Nico of Eastern Europe descent from the swim team, Jamal and Patrick from the basketball team, and Richie from Jamica. Today’s team was just as diverse but intensely connected. I told the guys to follow whatever passion they had in life and dream big. I shared with them the lessons they learn as part of a team will far outweigh any classroom knowledge their professors will teach them after they get out of school. I thanked Coach for the chance he took on me, and I told the guys to Run Strong!
The teams ran great and fast. The UB Ladies Purple Knights won led by a freshman from NJ who won outright. Post beat the UB men’s team but individually the UB men took both second and sixth despite one of their best runners missing the meet for class.
After the guys finished I congratulated everyone and bid Coach Mike farewell. I am sure our paths will cross again someday soon. As I laced up my sneakers close to four years after I raced the trails the sun was setting. I thought of my father’s pain and suffering. I am grateful he taught me the value of hard work and dedication. My muscles are sore as my miles are increasing and my pace per mile is decreasing. I told my father this morning I am going to do something big for him athletically in his honor but he might not be around to hear me tell him the stories. I teared up this morning on my run as I thought of dedicating an undertaking to him after he passes on.
My sister explained to my niece, who will be five this month, that Papa Ed is sick and that the doctors cannot fix him. I am coming to grips with that fact myself as I run my miles in solitude. The leaves are changing here in the northeast as my daddy is entering the autumn of his time here on earth.
In 2009 everything that could go right athletically and academically for me did. I was accepted into medical school. I ran some fast hundreds. I dated a lawyer and an adventure journalist. I got a college degree. I worked for Donald Trump and didn’t get “fired.” I won some races. I was honored with endorsement deals from sponsors and voted 4th in Ultrarunning Magazine’s Ultrarunner of the Year Award.
The University of Bridgeport was a special time in my life. My senior year of college was perhaps the best year of my life thanks to people like Coach Mike. The diversity of Bridgeport prepared me tremendously for my travels and adventures in life. I am truly grateful to the school, my friends, and my family. I love you pops. U.B…. YOU KNOW!