Fun Run

My high school coach, Mr. Grant, held a picnic at Seneca Creek Park, Maryland for our cross-country team to celebrate the end of our summer training. He told us to bring our running gear because we would have a little run before the festivities. “The country roads would make for a beautiful jaunt.”

Close to four dozen of us gathered at the park. In addition, a number of parents and siblings joined us for the day. The picnic area was flush with all the foods, drinks, games and sporting equipment needed for a fun afternoon. We didn’t see Mr. Grant, so the allure of the setting begged for the picnic to begin. 

The grill wasn’t fired up but liters of colored sodas and bags of snacks were devoured. A few games of wiffle ball and catch were buzzing along when Mr. Grant and his assistant Pat finally arrived. 

Little did we know Mr. Grant was late because he was mapping out a course for our run. Not privy to this fact, we casually listened when Mr. Grant gathered us together and told us how great the summer training had gone. He spoke of goals for the fall. Then he dropped the bomb on us and proceed to describe the course for our six mile run.


Our jaws dropped. We swore Mr. Grant wasn’t going to have us run once he saw all the fun going on. We were ready for hot dogs and hamburgers, not a run. Who interrupts a party for a run?  

We should have known better. Mr. Grant always took care of business. His commitment to our team was equal to his commitment to his family. Our training sessions were mostly filled with him barking instructions from Pat’s van while we ran along Rock Creek Park and our other training routes. His presence could silence a room of boisterous students. He channeled the gentlemanly demeanor and physical stature of Barack Obama before the world even knew who Obama was. 

Damian Hackett and Pierre Attiogbe are two former StA runners now at Cornell. Their coach, Jim Ehrenhaft, was at the famed picnic and learned his trade from Coach Grant. Damian is a 3:57 miler as a Cornell sophomore and the freshman Pierre ran a 4:02 mile in high school

Despondently, my group of the varsity guys set out down the country road. Our pace was far slower than usual. Fanta is certainly not a pre-practice hydration drink. We grumbled and slogged along for a handful of minutes.

Out of the distance, we heard a distinctive voice, “I don’t see much running going on up there.” It wasn’t the voice of Big Brother it was Mr. Grant about fifty yards behind us. He was fortyish but as lean and fit as the best on the team. We automatically began to hammer it.  Not another word needed to be said. 

We were hauling but continued to fuss about having to run. A few minutes had passed. Certainly, we had dropped Mr. Grant. One of my teammates coaxed me to turn around to see if he was still in our view. Before my head turned 90 degrees, he bellowed, “I’m still here.” Our easy picnic run turned into a nice steady state. 

All in one afternoon Mr. Grant taught us to “Keep your word”, “Walk the talk” and “There are no days off.” 

2 thoughts on “Fun Run

  1. Mark H. Mullin

    When I was 55 years old I was invited to run in the veterans race in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of the Oxford/Cambridge vs Harvard/Yale meet to be held on the Oxford track where Bannister ran the first four minute mile. I asked Skip to train me. I would never use the word FUN to describe a workout Skip was in charge of. But all the years I was at St. Albans I was grateful that so many students came under Skip’s influence. They became better men for the experience.

  2. Tom Liddy

    Oliver T. “Skip” Grant – OG cross country, swimming & track coach before OG was a thing. He was (is) a no B.S. Life Coach before “life coach” was a thing.

    I owe him.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *