In the wake of Gabe Proctor’s death, our Marketing Manager and professional distance runner Scott Bauhs shares his thoughts on the end of a season, the end of a career, and the end.
Running’s Peaks and Valleys
We have poured our hearts into running for years. Running has shaped our social lives, our schedules, and our bodies. We have whittled away our PRs while climbing the all-time lists at our schools and in our regions. We have shiny medals and T-shirts and memories. Sometimes we pause and are grateful for where running has taken us, but more often we are looking ahead to the next benchmark.
So what happens when the next benchmark is out of reach?
Across the US, collegiate and high school athletes are running their final races in their alma mater’s colors before graduating to the next of life’s adventures. For many, this will be their final race. But even the ones that have made it this far are lucky. Others fell short long before.
For the rest of us, running continues. We are the lucky ones that will see the fruits of a snowballing commitment to the sport that we love. With ever-increasing training volume and experience combined with careful refinement in workout structure, diet, cross training, recovery, and superstitions; we reach our pinnacle athletic performance. But eventually, even we will toe the line of our final race.
Regardless of where our peak is, the reality for everyone is that a corresponding valley awaits. Some of these valleys can be deep and dark.
Gabe Proctor and I were fortunate enough to climb higher peaks than most athletes in our sport, and we took similar paths to our accomplishments. Gabe spent his formative years at Western State in Colorado graduating in 2013. I chose Chico State in California and finished in 2008. Both schools have well-established records of developing successful distance runners without the glamor of an NCAA Division 1 athletic department or nationally ranked academics. Our decisions were rewarded with NCAA Division 2 national titles and futures in professional running. We both chose the town of Mammoth Lakes with its breathtaking scenery and its breath-stealing altitude as our home while we raced the world. We sought Olympic rings and major race wins with fearless tenacity while we looked back in disbelief at how far we had come.
Then we saw what the valley looks like when we come down from peaks so high.
Gabe and I both saw what it is like to train with consistent effort but achieve inconsistent results. We both found out what it is like to have the comfortable life our sponsors afforded us vanish before we were ready to give up that life. It all happened in the blink of an eye.
I don’t know exactly what was weighing on Gabe when he took his life a few days ago. Despite our similarities, I only ever knew him in passing. I do know that the few moments I did spend with him were marked by his distinctively warm demeanor. When I saw him struggle with running, I had a faint urge to reach out and see if he would want to move to San Luis Obispo, work at Running Warehouse, and join my running club. I even mentioned this thought to our mutual friend, but, alas, I never acted on this urge.
I wish I could tell him that while job markets are harsh for 27 year olds that can only list personal records and race wins on their resume, that the humbling act of starting from the bottom of a new vocation is refreshing and the tenacity that it takes to race around the world suits you well in your next endeavor.
I wish I could tell him that the friends he made on the circuit will find their way back into his life in surprising and delightful ways.
I wish I could tell him that comeback climbs can be sweeter than the highest peaks when viewed through the new perspectives they offer.
I wish I could tell him that every corner of the earth is lined with people that want to help you with whatever you might need. There are expert coaches in all of life’s endeavors. And those coaches you trusted with your legs can often offer fantastic advice about navigating the rest of life.
I wish I could tell him that people will always be interested in learning about the unique adventures that you acquired racing the world and that those stories tend to get better as you forget the exact details.
Now it is up to those that knew him to share his adventures. I have no doubts that this will happen; he was the type of person who worked his way into many of our friend’s greatest hits. However brief, he lived a prolific life, and even without a second act, he left his mark on the world.