Gone But Never Forgotten

Meeting with my HS Coach Stallcup and Coach Moore. Dec 12, at the Greater Flint Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
Meeting with my HS Coach Stallcup and Coach Moore. Dec. 1, 2012 at the Greater Flint Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony honoring Coach Stallcup.

They say there are only three types of speeches. The one you prepared, the one you gave, and the one you wished you would have given.  This post is about one I wished I would have given. I did deliver a brief speech the evening of December 1, 2012 at the Genesys Health Club in Grand Blanc.

I had traveled back to my hometown that evening to attend the Greater Flint Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and dinner honoring my former high school coach, Bob Stallcup. He was being honored yet once again for his outstanding career as a cross country and track coach. Of course people rarely receive such high honors if they do not already possess strong moral character and integrity, Coach Stallcup certainly possessed both. I had intended to only give a brief speech to him, actually only saying thank you for his inspiration and to let him know the extent of impact he had on my life as a person, an architect, professor, and yes even a running coach!

As expected there  was only a brief moment where we had time to chat. I was told his eyesight was not well, his face light up  with his huge and familiar smile when I finally had the chance to shake his hand and introduce myself following the ceremony. He certainly did remember me. He was both surprised and glad to meet again. I told him about my continued running career in less than two sentences. I was able to sneak in another sentence about how he influenced my running and now my coaching efforts. He then proceeded to recall several of my special races during May of 1970, he even recalled my split times!  Time was pressing but we managed to pose for a picture together with another influential coach during those years, Coach Moore, Stallcup’s assistant and my JV basketball coach.

That was the last I saw of Coach Stallcup. The evening of Sept. 11, 2014 I learned of his passing earlier in the day. What follows is the speech I wished I would have had the opportunity to say.

Hello Coach, I would like to thank you for setting the seed of inspiration in me during my days as a proud member of the Grand Blanc High School Track and Cross  Country teams between 1966 and 1970.  I showed up for my first practice as a pudgy freshman with ambitions of running in very important distance races.  Almost from the very first practice session you saw something in me and you designated me to be a “half miler”.  There were many times I was thankful I was not one of those long distance 2 milers yet there were times I dreaded having to “sprint” an entire half mile. It truly was a sprint if we were to meet your expectations. To this very day, my favorite workout are doing half mile (or 800m in today’s track lingo) repeats. As a pudgy freshman, I first struggled to break 2:30 for a half mile race. I was at the back of a long pack. Through your consistent belief that all of your runners could achieve success beyond our expectations I continued to press on with each workout, each rep, each mile, each time. Over the time of each season my time goal for the half mile  diminished.

I did break the 2 minute barrier in the half in my second to last race for GBHS. It was the first Genesee County County Championships. I finished second to my friend and teammate Dick Hahn. I still relieve every stride of that race remembering that I felt strong and fast throughout both laps.  I took that experience to the next and final race of my career the following week at the Davison Relays.You had stacked our medley relay team with our four  fastest middle distance runners. I ran the 880 (half mile) leg. I ran the first 660 in what had to be a record time.  I think it was somewhere in area of 74-76 seconds. Then I “Hit The Wall”! Yes, the wall can be hit in a half mile race too. We still managed to set a State of Michigan Record, unofficial since it was not in a State meet. I learned much from those two races that would go on to continue to inspire me as an architectural student and ultimately in my career as an architect.

Both distance racing and architecture require a great degree of dedication, tough work, consistent effort, disappointment, joy, and ultimately, rare moments of spectacular achievement that only the individual ever believed could be achieved.

Thanks to your influence, 48 years ago, a pudgy freshman runner became a thin and fast sub 2 minute half miler with claim to a State Record. That same person overcame large odds to become an architect. But not just any architect. As I look back on my professional career I have achieved what many others only dream of achieving in this profession. My work has won awards from my peers, been published in national journals, I am well known among my local peers. I have also been a leader in my community. All because of the power of belief and work ethic you had instilled in me decades previously.

Oh yes, I continue to run, continue to stretch, eat, and train the same way you taught us years ago. You were well ahead of your time in many of those methods!

My running career includes hundreds of road races all over the country including marathons in Boston, New York City, Detroit, Vancouver, Honolulu, and in Raleigh where I took first place in my age division! I am currently in the final weeks of training for the Chicago Marathon (Oct. 12). I have found myself sharing running stories with Frank Shorter and racing along side of Bill Rogers for the final 7 miles of a half marathon (btw he out kicked me at the end). I don’t run anywhere near as fast as I did nearly 48 years ago but I am often on the awards podium following many of my races.

Lee Bill Rogers run (1)
A candid shot of me racing against, and slightly ahead of, perhaps the best hill runner of all time, Bill Rogers, at mile 9 of The Brooksie Way Half Marathon in 2008

I am a proud member of the Running Fit 501 training group from our area too. I help to lead runners train for their races. Little do they know they are being trained by your methods.  Most every Saturday we find ourselves on long runs in Kensington Metro Park. At about the 3.5 mile mark of our normal route I run by that stinking hill you made us run up so many times, again and again. Only now I smile as I run past.

It’s not unusual for our runners to run 10-20 miles each Saturday in Kensington. They think it’s a lot of miles. That’s when I tell the story you relayed to me several years ago at a reunion. You reminded me that you had us running a marathon a day, six days in a row during cross country camp in the heat of August!  What I really would like to know is our average pace during those runs. I imagine our lead group was somewhere around a 5:30 pace? We never had an “aid station” either.

I also remember the mimeographed race results that were posted following each race. I still have a few of those. The one I would love to see the most and likely never will, is my splits during my 880 run at the Davison Relays. I really am curious to know of my time. While this information would be nice to know, the most important items are the fond memories of those times and the inspiration you provided to me and no doubt hundreds of others like me.

Thank you Coach. You may be gone but will never be forgotten.

Lee Mamola AIA  GBHS 1970

PS:  Link to article about Coach Stallcup’s induction: http://www.mlive.com/sports/flint/index.ssf/2012/11/grand_blanc_coach_bob_stallcup.html




One thought on “Gone But Never Forgotten

  1. Thank you for such a beautiful and well written article about dad – he touched so many lives and will always be remembered.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s