From Doubts to Breakthrough

Parker Stinson reflects on his journey to becoming an American record holder

U.S. 25K National Champion. An American Record. If you have seen the finish line photos or video, you would see an athlete overcome with emotion. You would think it was because of the flashy words and headlines that were just mentioned ... but you’d be wrong.

What you are really seeing at the finish line is an athlete who has been struggling for years to have the race he knew he deserved. An athlete who constantly received messages from friends and family that said, “Keep it up, you’re due for a big one.” I started to wonder, though, if I’d ever see that “big one.”

It seemed no matter how fit I was, the race I knew I was capable of would always escape my grasp. Now don’t get me wrong, I would have good races and most people would be happy to have those types of races, but as we all know running is about each and every one of us achieving our own best. That is what ties us all together in this running community. We love running because of what it feels like to achieve our own greatness.

From the outside in, it might have looked like I was doing well but I felt the fire and desire in my soul slowly starting to smolder and fade. My results were not exciting me, and I felt the passion I had for this sport struggling to survive. The last two weeks leading up to this race, however, I could feel something inside of me starting to shift. As the race creeped closer and closer, I could only go a few hours without thinking about it. These thoughts were strong and powerful and filled me with a heightened focus I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt calm and ready for the race whenever I thought about it instead of feeling anxiety or dread. I didn’t know what was exactly in store for me, but I could truly feel that something special was brewing.

Fast forward to race day and I was feeling ready for the USATF 25K National Championship event. By the time it was underway I felt centered, focused and numb to everything around me except for my breathing and body. I was not going to be denied today. I had knocked politely at the door of greatness hoping to be let in for years now but perhaps the real answer was to knock down the whole damn thing. A breakthrough it was they call it and I felt every ounce of that door crumble to pieces beneath my feet. The pure joy that erupted out of me as I crossed that finish line had very little to do with winning a national title or breaking an American record and had everything to do with finally pushing past all the doubts and demons that had kept me from being my best self. I had truly emptied the tank and, as every runner knows, there is no better feeling in the world.

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