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A Fam-iliar Story

June 20, 2006

Anthony “Fam” Famiglietti is a top U.S. distance runner who recently launched the website runfam.com. (Thanks to eliterunning.com for the link.) His online biography includes the following:

Fam’s very first race took place during a field day event in the fifth grade. It is a day he will never forget. The challenge was to race one lap around the perimeter of the school field. Fam, encompassing an instinct that has never left him, took off at the crack of the gun and bolted to the front of the pack immediately. He quickly left his competitors behind. Unfortunately, he collapsed in the middle of the race, and failed to finish. Even though that day didn’t turn out the way he expected, it served as a prelude of what was to come.

Apparently Fam and I have more in common than I would have guessed from a comparison of our PRs. You see, MY distance running career also started with a one-lap-around-the-school-grounds Field Day race.

Up to that point (third grade, in my case), I had been an enthusiastic participant in many sports but had not demonstrated any aptitude in any of them. I was starting to realize that my lack of sprinting speed was pretty much a universal liability in the athletic world. At track camp, the coaches had us do 100s and 200s in groups of three, and invariably I was given a 3rd-place ribbon for losing to the other two people in my heat. This infuriated me. (I was an intense, competitive kid … as opposed to the intense, competitive adult that I am now.)

Fast-forward to Field Day at Lincoln School in the spring of 1982. As usual, I got pummeled in the 50-yard dash, softball throw, long jump, etc. But then came the Distance Run, which was probably a quarter of a mile or so. Unlike Fam, I showed good pacing instincts and gradually moved up as others faded, eventually crossing the finish line about even with Joel Hector and behind only two other kids. Most of my classmates said that Joel had beaten me — not surprising, since he was more popular than I — but the teacher, Mrs. Tomsuden, declared it a tie and awarded 3rd-place certificates to both of us.

My little heart swelled with pride. I had found a sports niche; I was an endurance athlete!

As for Fam, he pursued skateboarding until his family forced him to give it up after a series of accidents. He now runs the steeplechase a lot, which is about as close to skateboarding as you can get when you’re a distance runner.

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