As you've already surmised from the heavy-handed title, yesterday was my 23rd birthday. My twenty-third year was pretty great for a lot of different reasons and, as birthdays so often can be, my big day was a reminder of just how many incredible people I've been blessed to share my journey with. The older I've become the better I understand just how critical the right relationships are to my well-being, happiness, and success. The supportive community that surrounds me has been the greatest contributing factor to any and all successes I've experienced and the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts (working title: Synergy). Nevertheless, any attempt to generalize that support into one monolithic whole is a disservice to the many individuals whose personal and intentional contributions have been the difference makers in my life and career.
Firstly, Camille. For a long time my relationship to running seemed about the only love-interest I needed (and, to most pundits, probably the only one I'd ever be lucky enough to have). Fortunately, Camille knew what I actually needed better than I did; a characteristic of our relationship that holds true to this day. In retrospect, it still amazes me that she was able to break through my fortress-of-solitude-esque mindset (or, quite frankly, that she would even want to). Nevertheless, I am forever grateful that she did. Camille is the greatest blessing I have and a support to me in nearly every way conceivable. To my overzealous tendencies she has been a voice of reason and a sobering influence. To my disappointments, fears, and insecurities she provides a bedrock of love and support that I have come to gratefully rely upon. In my successes she has deftly balanced joy and affirmation with a measure of humility and grounding, celebrating with me while all the while reminding me that life is so much more than any accolade or victory. Camille brings balance, humour, and so much love. That I get to share my life with her brings me such joy.
It rarely takes long for me to find a way of bringing up my family in conversation (case in point), a fact I attribute to the pride taken in watching my siblings and parents live their best lives. Their enthusiasm is infectious and the joy I feel in seeing them pursue their own passions is of the same vein as what I feel reciprocated to me by their support of my own aspirations. No matter what my efforts turned to, my parents were right there to support, encourage, and at times council and direct me to do it to the best of my abilities, as something done unto the LORD. The example they've set for me of generosity, selflessness, and faith in God's plan of direction is one I strive to emulate in my own life and hope is reflected in the relationships I cultivate for myself. I am grateful for my Mom, whose unwavering support and compassion is so often veiled in a deep humility, quiet confidence and unflinching faith. She is a source of great peace for me, especially in the midst of life's craziest moments. Likewise, I am grateful for my Dad, whose support is anything but veiled. To anyone who has shared a stadium with him while watching me compete (I applaud your resolve), you know that he wears his heart on his sleeve. He is passionate about what makes others passionate and unbounded in the extents to which he will go to support, encourage, and edify. While I have not always relished his tendency to augment and reflect my own emotions on race day ("Are you nervous, John?" "Well, now I'm nervous!"), I've grown to appreciate his incredible enthusiasm and--when abiding by his self-imposed restraining order in the hour preceding a race--there is no person I'd rather have willing me onwards than him. In my siblings, Aidan and Maya, I am fortunate to have two incredible friends whose ambition and sense of adventure serve as motivation to reach for greater things in my own life. I value the counterpoint their outsized lives offer to the insular bubble that my life as an athlete so often becomes and know they are every bit as proud of me as I am of them.
To the people on the inside of that aforementioned-bubble, my running community, I have no one to whom I can attribute more than CJ. At the core of our relationship is a trust that I wouldn't trade for the world. At the onset of our time working together, CJ reflected a belief in me that I'm not sure I even had in myself. At every step, he has modelled a patience and a resolve that I've come to learn are vital to long term success in this sport, and which I hope I am finally beginning to reflect in my own approach. He has humbly allowed the successes of his athletes to be entirely their own, and in leaving his ego at the door has taught me to do the same. CJ is part and parcel to every success I have had thus far and I am confident that our partnership will continue to grow better with time. Furthermore, I am indebted to my training partners and teammates, both past and present, who have not only provided me with the motivation to push my limits but more importantly with the camaraderie and sense of belonging that have made my place in this sport so rewarding. Many of my very best friendships began with a simple off-day run. Specifically, my longtime roommates Evan and Lukas, who I've shared countless miles, innumerable laughs, and more than one great house party with. They've put up with my eccentricities and made the effort to be great friends to me even when it's been an uphill battle to do so. To the Thunderbirds Track Club, UBC varsity program, BC Athletics and the countless people in this amazing athletics community who have taken risks on me, I hope my efforts reflect the gratitude I hold for each of you.
Finally, my highest gratitude I reserve for the King of Kings, my LORD and Saviour, Jesus Christ. My life has been richly blessed and I recognize it all to be the outgrowth of Christ's love. Nothing I have done or could ever do comes close to warranting the surpassing love and salvation offered me through Jesus. I don't deserve it, I could never earn it, and yet Christ has offered it to me freely through his death on my behalf. I have been given much, in my relationships, in my health, in my physical abilities, in the opportunities presented to me. All these things I accept in humility, recognizing I am but a steward of the gifts given to me by God to make much of His Kingdom. In a sport as self-seeking as mine I have at times wrestled to reconcile the path I have chosen with God's call to love Him and serve Him with all my heart. Yet by his grace he has given me a sense of peace and affirmation; opening doors, granting me opportunities, leading me into relationships through which I am witness to his good and perfect will at work in my life and the lives of others. It is my greatest joy that I am free to do what I love for His Glory, free of the inhibitions of this world. That God has surrounded me with incredible people with whom I can share this journey and through whom I see the Holy Spirit at work fills me with excitement, and I know there is so much good that lies ahead, both in this life and eternity.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."