We all had one. A first coach. Coach Roger McHone was my first running coach. I went out for Cross Country my sophomore year of High School, Fairfield, Iowa. I had traded my aspirations of being a football player like my dad for the sweat and grind of distance running. So glad I went out for cross country. What unfolded over the next 3 years has impacted my life since.
I showed up for my first XC practice early that first fall wearing my new Converse All Star, white, low top canvas basketball shoes. $8. I am guessing I gave Coach reason to chuckle a bit. If he laughed, it didn’t show! Under his tutelage, all of the hard workouts, yellow school bus trips to meets, miles of running rural gravel roads across the hilly Southeast Iowa countryside, matured me into the runner I became. Did it take hard work? Absolutely. Did it take commitment? For sure. All with the direction, guidance and leadership of Coach McHone.
Five decades later, I have run (and or raced) in over 20 states, 4 international countries, attended and raced dozens of national meets, coached at the club, HS, NCAA Div 1, and Master levels, coached 1 national champion, 1 NCAA AA, and dozens of athletes to podium and personal bests. Completed a MS with a concentration in Exercise Science, spoken at a number of running clinics, certified as a USATF Level II Coach, certified as a Master Level USATF Track and Field Official, officiated dozens of NCAA I and II, HS and Youth Meets. Reached a national level competitor status throughout my college and post college days. All because of one coach that gave me a start in High School. Coach Roger McHone.
Coach McHone was a pretty cool coach. He drove this 2 door Chevy Nova that had an 8 track player. Nothing beat that at the time. He mixed up workouts. Served watermelon after meets. Stern with us when he needed to be, laughed with us as often. He taught me a lot about hard work, pacing, and determination. The consistency with his workouts I still apply today with the runners I coach. Above all, he put a lot of fun (as best he could) into the hard work required to be a distance runner. He was patient with me, and smiled the day I showed up to practice in my new Adidas Country training shoes.
In addition – Coach McHone actively lead the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at our HS. I ran into him and a car load of HS guys one summer at FCA Summer Camp in Estes Park, CO. A surprise encounter for sure! Still encouraging these HS kids in his circle of influence to follow Jesus. His example of leadership continues to impact my outreach and ministry to others with the same encouragement.
True leadership sets you apart from others. You leave a mark on the lives around you. You impact your world in a way that others gravitate towards. You pour into others’ lives. You serve. Coach McHone did all the above and more.
I am truly blessed to have had his leadership in my life. His life has and will continue to impact countless others’. Now he faces a big battle; the battle fighting MS. The photo captures the last time I visited with he and his wife Diane at their home in Fairfield, Iowa, April 2019. We told stories, reminisced, laughed, cried a bit and prayed together before I set out on a return trip to Montana.
His last words to me as I walked to my car were; “I love you man.” Coach Roger, I love you too! Thanks so much for all you did for me.
Until next time, enjoy the run!