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It’s the running time of year right now. When the cross-country season has started and the mornings are getting cooler and the smell of fresh-cut grass mixes with fall smells– like the smell of smoke from woodburning stoves. When the grass is still green but the leaves are beginning to change colors.

Those of you who have been visiting the blog have probably noticed that I write a lot of posts about running. Those of you who have read my books have probably noticed that the characters are often runners. I joke that this is because running is the only sport I was ever any good at (and this is true)–but it’s also because running has been part of my life for so long and is so important to me.

I started when I was fourteen. This is my nineteenth autumn of running. I’m not in those high school races anymore; the state race in October goes by and it belongs to other girls, other teams. But I can’t drive by Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City without getting a feeling that is half anticipation and half fear. I can’t help but want to stride it out at the end of every run.

I’m still running. And it’s because of the man in the picture above. Coach Corry.

I owe him so much.

Coach Corry, who is also a medical doctor, taught us to appreciate the body for what it can do, not how it looks. He taught us to work hard but not to be stupid about it. He took us seriously, and our health seriously, and he cared about us. He is a fantastic coach–his girls’ cross country team has won the state championship many, many times–but he cheers as loudly and is as thrilled for the girl in last place as he is for the fastest girl on the team.

Everyone should be so lucky to have such a mentor.

And a good mentor, which Coach Corry was (and is–he’s still coaching, and still cheering) teaches you things that you can apply throughout your life. I remember one conversation in which he told me that he thought I didn’t have a lot of natural running ability. The way he said it was a compliment: that I’d made up for a lack of ability with hard work. It’s not like I was the fastest girl on the team, ever. But, for Coach Corry, it was all about the team and about the PR. The personal record. Running your best and winning against yourself while caring about your teammates.

I remembered his comment when I was soundly rejected in 2004 when I queried my first book. No agents were interested. And I had worked really hard and I had queried a lot of agents. “Okay,” I thought. “I’m not good at this yet. But I’m a hard worker and I’ll keep writing every day and maybe someday I will be.”

It’s six years later. There are lots of writers who are much, much better than I am. But I didn’t give up, and I think I owe a lot of that to a comment made years ago when I was in high school. To someone who told me the only value isn’t in being good, but in working hard. In trying to get better.

The best coaches and mentors are the ones who not only changed your life once, but help you change it over and over again even after the passing of years and the changing of circumstances.

Coach knows he taught me to run, but I don’t know if he knows that he also taught me to write.

Thank you, Coach. And best wishes on the upcoming season.

+ comments (18)
  • NatalieWhipple
    August 31, 2010

    Okay, that’s awesome. Thanks for thisβ€”I needed it today:)

  • Oh Ally.

    You bring happy tears to my eyes. I feel the same way about the lessons I learned and muscles I grew while running at CHS.

    Thank you for writing this.

  • melissa@1lbr
    August 31, 2010

    Oh, this brought back memories of my own cross-country running days! Especially that fear and anticipation of running a big race. I’ve really got to get back to running…

  • Mariam
    August 31, 2010

    Amen! I am actually helping the CV Cross-country girls- but my heart will always be with Coach Corry.

  • becca
    August 31, 2010

    That is an exceptional tribute. And you know he’s so proud of you. Great post. Great thoughts.

  • Barbara Corry
    August 31, 2010

    You need to know that you and all the other runners have enriched and changed both Bob’s and my life immeasurably. When we see what you overcome in running, how can we quit with the things we are trying to do? I cried at most races because I was so proud and amazed at what all of you were willing to give to get your PR. We love to see how you are living your lives after graduation. You make us proud. Thank you for that wonderful post but more, thank you for being the kind of person who would accept such lessons and make so much more out of them. Barbara

  • ally
    August 31, 2010

    Barbara, you deserve a tribute of your own for all you have done. We are all so blessed to know you. Thank you for being Coach Mom all these years. I hope to grow up to be more like you someday.

  • Bob Corry
    August 31, 2010

    Ally I appreciate all the things you said although I don’t think I am/was that great The only correction I have is you were the fastest on the team at the footlocker meet in Calif. I’ll never forget that.
    Coach Corry

  • Susie Yorgason
    August 31, 2010

    Ally, what a wonderful message for all of us on the brink of this beautiful fall season. I loved reading your words, and I loved reading Bob’s and Barbara’s words too. Thanks.

  • ally
    August 31, 2010

    Coach, I think there are literally hundreds/thousands of people who can beg to differ with you on the point of your being great.

    And thanks for the Foot Locker correction. I will never forget that one either.

    Thank you again for everything.

  • ally
    August 31, 2010

    Natalie, you’re amazing. I’m glad you liked this post. I admire you very much. I hope you know that.

    Charlotte, I was so thrilled to see your response. Thank you for being a great example. We all looked up to you.

    Melissa, I’m so glad you liked the post. There is something about running in the fall, isn’t there?

    Mariam, I bet you are a wonderful coach too. Those girls are lucky.

    Becca, I hope so.

    Susie, I’m glad you liked the post! Bob and Barbara are so amazing.

  • Sandy Shin
    August 31, 2010

    Your Coach sounds like such an amazing man — and the message he imparted is such a wonderful one. Hard work is the one area anybody — runner or writer — can improve in. πŸ™‚

  • ann dee
    August 31, 2010

    This is beautiful, Ally. And so true.

  • LaRae
    August 31, 2010

    Everything you said is so true and is just how I feel about Coach and he is so humble about it too. Coach if you see this you ARE everything Ally said and Barbara we thank you as well. I hope my girls get the same blessing of working with you as I did.
    Congrats on your continued success Ally you are a very talented writer!

  • Libby
    August 31, 2010

    Oh I am SO glad that Coach Corry read this. I was thrilled to see his comment on here!

    Even though I didn’t run with you guys, just being in with the running crowd and spending so much time at the Corry’s house, made me realize what a wonderful man he is! You wrote an amazing tribute Ally!

    Oh and that graduation picture of us…awesome! We were pretty cute back then! How come the boys were so oblivious of that?

  • Stacey
    September 1, 2010

    Thanks for those thoughts Ally! Love it.

    P.S. loving the new blog look too!

  • Brooke
    September 1, 2010

    Ally, that was beautiful. And profound. Thanks for your posts.

  • ally
    September 5, 2010

    Sandy, he really is amazing. As you can probably tell by the comment he left on this post–he is incredibly humble too.

    Ann Dee, thanks for coming by. πŸ™‚

    LaRae, Coach is the best, Isn’t he? And you guys were such great team captains. I always remember that freshman year with so much fondness.

    Lib, I’m really glad he remembered it too. (And glad you don’t mind about that awesome graduation picture.) πŸ˜‰

    Stacey, thanks for the comments about the blog look! The girl who designed the banner did a great job.

    Brooke, you’re so sweet. I have been wanting to write this about him for a while and finally realized I could never do him justice so I might as well just do the best I could and write something anyway.

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