Patch was a make-believe character in a children's book who learned he could run fast when he was a young boy. The book was written in the year I was born.
The story about Patch was a book in elementary school libraries decades ago. In the story, a coach named Mr. Anderson takes Patch under his wing and helps him become a great miler.
I read the book Patch late in my Elementary school years. The book had a profound impact on my life in so many ways. I never realized the importance of the book in my life until around the age of 41.
Looking back, Patch's fictional tale turned out to be somewhat of an authentic prophetic look into the future for me on different levels in my life. The power of Patch's fictional story clicked in my brain at a young age. I wanted to be like Patch and use my gift of running.
The fictitious story about a high school miler nicknamed Patch had many real-life examples of some of the best runners of the day weaved into the storyline.
What is impressive about rereading Patch as an adult older man is that the actual training methods of the proper running starts of that era were described accurately.
For example, Roger Bannister, the first man to break the four-minute mile, was mentioned along with some real-life quotes from Bannister in the book.
Patch's life dramatically changed for the better after he found his gift of running. His gift brought more to his life than just running fast. He found many new friends, created meaningful relationships, and learned many life lessons in his new running journey.
Because of the book's impact on my life, I searched high and low for it for about 25 years until I finally found it on the Welcome to Open Library | Open Library site in January of 2024. My wife Julie tried to find it for me for several years because of the book's significance and impact on my life.
When I finally found the book, it was like finding buried treasure because of its impact on my life.
The Power of Story: A Prophetic Look into The Future
The tale of Patch turned out to be an authentic prophetic look into the future of my life as I look back on it. The book's contents spoke to my life when I had a low opinion of myself due to being bullied and not succeeding much in school or other activities.
Patch did not understand his gift of running until he entered a race one day. He ran in jeans with a patch on them, hence the name Patch. My first race was untraditional to, like the race Patch ran.
I ran barefoot, refusing to wear shoes, something I practiced until about midway through my junior high years. I had no idea I had the gift of running, just like Patch in the story. We were both a bit unconventional in our approach to our sport starting out.
Coach Anderson Became One Of My Coaches
In the book, Coach Anderson was one of the mentors in Patch's high school life. My head high school track and field coach was named Coach Anderson! This was just one of many coincidences in the book.
Coach Anderson taught Patch, who had a quiet and reserved personality, to become a great miler. Patch won his first ever race! Coach Anderson emphasized to Patch that if he was going to be a champion though, he had to train during the track season and mostly year-round.
Like Patch in the story, I was quiet, reserved, naive, and off the radar to my classmates. In other words, I was not in the mainstream of kids on the popularity when I was young. I, too, learned that year-round training for me was a ticket to a better life.
My demeanor, much like the personality style of Patch, was anything but outgoing, and I mostly kept to myself. I was just average or a little below in schoolwork and rarely participated in activities because of his shyness until running got a hold of me. I was not musically or artistically inclined and was significantly bullied at times, contributing to low self-confidence. I had few places to fit in.
One day, like Patch, I was asked to run in a foot race against the entire school. The race was not a mid-distance race like the race Patch ran in the story, but to my delight, I won my first-ever race, the 75-yard dash, by a large margin.
My classmates were amazed for some reason that this quiet boy who sat in the back of the class could run that fast. The entire class picked me up and carried me around the playground that day as a respectful and encouraging gesture. Having most of your class pick you up on their shoulders was something like you would see in a movie, only it was real life.
Treating me with respect on that warm spring day changed the course of my life in so many life-giving ways, forever, just like Patch in the story after he won his first race.
A teacher at my elementary school noticed my potential and connected me with an area summer track coach after contacting my parents. My parents had the foresight and vision to sign me up for a summer running program; that was a life-changing experience.
My grades started to pick up due to my newfound confidence, and I also began to come out of my shell. I even began to stick up for myself in positive ways and ask for help when life's bullies came knocking, primarily due to my newfound confidence through running.
My elementary teacher, my parents, and coaches recognized and encouraged my God-given potential, and the rest, as they say, was history.
I became a state track and field champion and one of the best in the United States in my event in high school. I finished second in the United States National Junior Olympic Championships in Ithaca, New York, beaten only by a new national record.
I also attended college, mostly paid for by athletic and academic scholarships due to the consistency of my training throughout the year.
I was also blessed to become the first person in my immediate family to attend college. In addition, I graduated from college with honors and won an outstanding collegiate student-athlete award during my senior year in college.
In addition, I became a nationally ranked runner, winning various collegiate conference titles and other championships as a post-collegiate runner and was blessed with the title of the best all-around runner, after winning the Original Ultimate Runner Competition (10k, 400 meters, 100 meters, a mile and marathon all ran on the same day).
Don't underestimate the power of good teachers, coaches, and other educators who help improve lives. And don't underestimate what a book like Patch can do in a vulnerable time of life as a child. The book Patch, genuinely helped to change my life trajectory for the better, forever.
In Patch, I saw hope.
I am incredibly grateful for all those coaches and educators who saw those moments in my life and took the time to make the best of them. When someone truly believes in you, the sky is the limit. Like coach Anderson in the story of Patch, my coach Anderson helped change my life trajectory.
The caring attitude of some of my past teachers and coaches is why I'm still involved in Christ-centered education and coaching today. Helping all students reach their God-given potential regardless of ability level is what I am called to do every day.
Thank you, Mr. Springer, for seeing my talent and connecting me to the summer track. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for signing me up for summer track on that warm and windy day.
Thank you, Coach McDonald, for taking me all over the state in your van to run races year in and year out. Thank you, Coach Collins, for helping me become one of the best runners in the country in high school during the summer months.
Thank you, Coach Dobosz, for your help through the wind and rain each training day. Thank you, Mom, Dad, Mr. Springer, Coach McDonald, and Coach Collins, for pushing me to reach for my dreams as a young boy.
Thank you, Coach Anderson, for running a great high school program, just like Coach Anderson in the story of Patch.
Sports like cross-country and track & field are much more important than many realize today. Like education, sports can change lives for the better forever. For many of us, sports were game changers, transforming life forever in magnificent and life-giving ways. Reading about sports is also a game changer, as evidenced by my love of the book Patch as a child.
As the dawn of a new track and field season approaches, I can't help but think there is another "Patch" out there waiting in the wings to unleash their gift. I want to be the coach who finds and helps the next Patch reach for and attain their dreams.
The story of Patch gave me hope in life that I could excel at something, too, during my childhood.
The Original Ultimate Runner Competition consisted of running a 10k, 400 meters, 100 meters, a mile, and marathon, all on the same day. The original Ultimate Runner Competition sought to answer these questions: Was a miler or middle-distance runner the best runner in the world? Was a sprinter the best in the world? Was a marathon runner or ultra-marathon runner the best runner in the world?