Thank You, Espo.

This letter has been ruminating in my head for years…I’ve just been waiting for the right time to write it, which is now.


Dear Espo,

You might not realize the impact you made on my life 20 years ago but it was, in a word, monumental. From the bottom of my heart, from my entire heart and being, I want to say: Thank You.

I don’t know if you remember all the team meetings you had as Head Coach of SHS Softball. I only had 4 years of them and I don’t. But I recall bits and pieces of one, so I’ll share them here. I promise, it’s hazy:

We were all packed in a small room by the back entrance of SHS in the fall of 1999. I can’t remember much about the meeting. I’m sure we talked about fall ball. I’m sure you used a stern but proud tone to describe Black Knights Softball. I do remember this: you offered us the chance to make a good impression. The words (loosely stated, of course) that stuck were these: “We’re going to run the Athlete’s Foot 5k in the spring.”

So, despite the fact that I wasn’t even allowed to run the timed mile with everyone in gym class because I had “asthma,” I took your words to heart. At the time, I didn’t have a clue what a 5k was, how one “goes for a run,” or even that people ran more than a single mile at a time. I winged it. I wanted to be on your radar. I wanted to impress you.

When I started, I had a new friend and soccer teammate along for the ride. Erin and I would run around our neighborhoods. I was pretty stubborn about it, we’ll call it “strong tunnel vision,” so I scared her off pretty quickly. I kept going. I remember sneaking away from my brother’s hockey games at Terry Conners for a lap or two around Cove. I had a 2-mile and 3-mile route along Vine Road.

I don’t remember how often I ran, what days, or what I did in the winter when it snowed. But I know that’s how it started 20 years ago.

In the spring, I ran that 5k in 28:28. I was thinking about it the other day. The Ridgeway parking lot felt so weird as a race starting line. When I hit Washington Blvd while running, I thought I’d reached a foreign land. I vividly recall being emotional and proud of myself when I got to the 1-mile mark: “I can’t believe I’m doing this!”

We ran the same race the next year and I finished 3 minutes faster. I remember Ron from the Athlete’s Foot being impressed and proud of me. It was a great feeling but it was all for Black Knights Softball.

I’m not exactly sure at what point in college things changed, but they did. Softball and running did a flip flop. I could write a book’s worth about my running since that. Epic training runs around the world, gorgeous views, races, wins, let downs, PRs, course records, injuries, sponsors, teams. I’m thousands and thousands of miles from where I was when I started (pun intended).

Instead, I’ll just leave you with this:

For a long time now, I’ve said that what would make me happiest would be to just spend the whole day running. Last weekend, I spent 24 hours and 57 minutes running around New England at the Midstate Massive Ultra Trail 100 mile race. You know what? I was right. I have never been happier.

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I need, need, need to thank you for getting me started all those years ago. It has shaped my entire life.

All my love,
KatieO

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