Student Reflections: Reedy Senior Zach Altman Shares "The Road to Boston"

Feb 16, 2018

Frisco ISD is excited to introduce a new series highlighting reflections by our students. This series will feature short essays or videos that provide a glimpse into their journeys as students and leaders of the future. The first installment is by Reedy High School senior Zach Altman, who writes about his upcoming participation in the Boston Marathon.

Zach Altman Can you feel tired and energetic at the same time? My nephews certainly make it seem possible. How they can play five sports and still wake up for school in the morning baffles me. But could they run a marathon? Although they would enthusiastically say yes, I don't even know how to comprehend the formidable task of running 26.2 miles, especially on a stage as big as Boston.

Why the Boston Marathon, you ask? To answer that question, I must brag about my dad, a 78-year-old runner from the Boston suburbs. Born and raised in Clinton, Mass., he did not begin his running career until his mid-40s. Thirty years later, though, he managed to complete 19 full marathons, including Boston as his first, and nearly 40 half marathons. Accordingly, when I started running two years ago, I set Boston as the goal for my first marathon as well.

There are only two ways to run the Boston Marathon: you must either qualify or run on behalf of a charity. Since qualifying meant running another marathon first, I applied to several charities sponsoring the race. After waiting anxiously for several weeks, I received a call from Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island informing me that they had accepted my application along with only three others in the country. As part of that acceptance, each participant agreed to raise $10,000 so that Make-A-Wish can grant the requests of more kids with critical illnesses. I cannot adequately express in words the feelings I experienced that day. I remember having a sense of nervous excitement; I welcomed the honor but at the same time knew a long and difficult road lay ahead. The mixture of elation and pride combined with utter shock completely overwhelmed me.

Running to support Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island only further motivates me because of my involvement with the Make-A-Wish North Texas chapter. Working with my school, I led a campaign two years ago to raise $5,000 to send a 5-year-old boy struggling with several heart defects to Disney World. In front of 1,000 students in the school gymnasium, I revealed this “wish come true,” serving as the master of ceremonies of the event. The chance to run this marathon has reminded me that a healthy lifestyle not only includes exercise and proper nutrition, but giving back to the community as well. By continuing to work with Make-A-Wish, I hope to inspire other high schoolers to recognize that giving back sometimes requires actions as simple as dialing a phone number or sending an email.

After the call, my dad explained to me that marathon training exhausts your body, challenges your mind, but most importantly, reveals your character. The best advice I received from him, though, revolved around a motto, three words I could always rely on to push me through a tough run. On instinct, I quickly inquired about the words by which he trained, but he wisely recommended I select my own. Eventually, I chose three that would not only apply to my training, but to my life in general: humility, discipline and effort.

If I had to pick a favorite, humility would take the gold. During a race, humility covers the first third of the course. It requires normalizing the initial pain, taking in the surroundings and settling into a consistent pace. Discipline satisfies the next third. It demands recognition of, not ignorance towards, fatigue and soreness, yet relying on training to power through anyway. Effort surfaces during the last third. It reminds me that training can only bring me so far, because from here on out, effort will genuinely separate the runners lacking grit and determination from those with the mental strength and heart to utilize them.

Rarely in our lives does the opportunity present itself to participate in something truly meaningful. But when it does, reluctance and hesitancy do not excuse inaction. As an 18 year old, the ability to run a world-renowned race while garnering support and donations for my favorite charity has allowed me to capitalize on this extraordinary opportunity. Whatever the future may hold, I can only hope that I remain healthy and dedicated so that it includes pavement, brisk air and some swift running shoes. For now, though, I can only focus on the near future, or, simply put, the road to Boston.

“Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.” – Jerry Rice