Empty the Well

by Melissa Brunner

As I struggled through a run this week, I thought to myself, "Empty the well." It's a phrase that often comes to me when I'm tired, or not feeling the best or trying to talk myself into an extra mile or finishing sprint.

The phrase comes from my high school track coach. Mr. R passed away over the summer. I thought of him again owhen a few pictures popped up on Facebook of people reunited at a celebration of his life held this past weekend. A check of his obit revealed he coached girls track at our high school for 32 years. (He also played a few seasons of NFL football, which I don't think I ever recalled hearing!)

Mr. R always drove us to "empty the well" - to give our all, whether it was a workout or a race. He also would yell to "carry the potato chip." That's how he would describe the need to relax the upper body - rather than clench your hands into fists, pretend you were carrying a fragile potato chip in your fingers that you didn't want to crumble. Yeah, he was that kind of guy - a little corny, always wearing tan pants, and unfailingly fair and encouraging.

Every year, Mr. R would give a speech about giving your all. At the time, the regional meet was held at a school whose track was down in a bowl and fans would often sit on the hillside to watch the action. Mr. R would say that no one wanted to find themselves, their senior year, looking down on the bowl and regionals and wondering what might have been. The point was to do your very best so that, when it all came to an end, you'd have no regrets - you would know in your heart that you "emptied the well."

I was never the fastest runner, longest jumper or farthest thrower. I tried them all! I was a sort of utility player, willing to be tossed into any event and, if I ended up gaining a point or two for the team, so much the better! I'll never forget, though, how Mr. R once told me that I"d be a runner for life. I think I made a face when he said that! At the time, the thought of running 800 meters was life threatening! Who would have thought that I'm now a 5k regular and getting geared up for my third half-marathon!

Mr. R was right. And those corny phrases come back to me in a lot of situations. I might remind myself to "carry the potato chip" in any situation where I need to take a step back and calm down! And "empty the well" isn't just about running. It's about giving your best, whether it's exercise, work, a special project or a relationship, so, at the end of the day, you know you did the best you could and have no regrets.

Thanks, Mr. R, for going to the well for so many of us.


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