by Travis Lavin
I was born in Torrance, Ca, coming from a military family, we were stationed in Camp Pendleton in Oceanside Ca. I spent the first decade of my life there, not much that I remember. At a young age, my parents divorced, which caused me to become a troubled kid. I was getting in trouble at school, pulling fire alarms, getting in fights, and being disrespectful to teachers. At age 10, my mom remarried, and we moved back to my mom's hometown of Centralia, Il, a small little farming town with plenty of issues, gangs, violence, drugs, and everything else you could think of. I attended central city grade school, where I continued to be a troubled kid, not learning much from where I came from, I was held back a year. I kept this behavior, and I had my desk permanently moved to the principal's office. After all this bad behavior, something had to change. In 5th grade, my P.E. teacher luckily noticed some early talent in Basketball, and I figured I'd give Basketball a shot since our town came from a history being known as the winning-est high school basketball team in the nation. The basketball coach was also the cross country and track coach and required us to run to stay in shape for Basketball, so I ran as well but didn't enjoy it despite doing ok throughout my grade school years. I slowly became more focused on sports and staying out of trouble; I was determined to be the best basketball player I could be. In grade school, I helped take our basketball team to the state championships two years in a row, something that had never been done before. By the time 8th grade hit, I was excited and ready to play Basketball at Centralia high school but was not prepared for the school part. Still having a slow learning curve, I struggled with school, and what made it worse is I wasn't getting any better due to the sole focus I had on sports because it was the thing that was making me feel good about myself and keeping me out of trouble.
During My High School days, I focused on playing Basketball. My mom had other thoughts on that. She found out what time the first day of cross-country practice was and took me without telling me, and I was not happy. I gave the first day a shot and continued to go every day after but wasn't focused on it. Even though, as a freshman, I made it onto the varsity team and helped us win the conference and regional championships, I wasn't sold on running; I was ready for Basketball. Basketball training camp started to get picked on the team, and I had made the cut, I was going to play for the winning-est team in the nation in hopes of the start of my basketball career in college and beyond. As a freshman, I barely played on the J.V. team. I was quickly thinking this may not be the sport for me, coming from a small feeder school, all the other kids were coming from more prominent grade schools that were winning against more talented schools then what I ever played in grade school, and it quickly showed. I continued to work hard and show improvement but wasn't what they were looking for to be a starter. The season ended, and I hardly played, the cross-country coach got me to join the track team which I was not thrilled about but did it because he believed I would be a great runner. I didn't enjoy track much at first and would skip practices after school to go skateboard or play Basketball. After coming to practice whenever I felt like it, the coach quickly nipped that in the butt. He brought me into his office and told me, you have more talent at running then you think, and you could do well, well enough to be on varsity and run at the state meet, you could even get a scholarship to run in college, something I had never thought anything about. He said I'm going to give you one more chance to be on this team; if you miss practice again, he will kick me off for good. I took the compliment to heart and literally ran with it. I ran some of the top track times as a freshman and ran on the varsity team and won in varsity track meets. Sophomore year, I didn't try out for the basketball team. I focused on running all winter to get ready for track season. That season I qualified for my first state track meet in the 2 mile, it was the most excellent experience ever. Junior and senior year, I continued to excel at running and made it to state in cross country and track both years, I had found success in running, and I loved it. My senior year I had gotten letters to run places in college but uncertain of where I wanted to go, all the years I had been told you could get a scholarship to run but never put any thought into it at all of where I wanted to go nor did I take any visits. I graduated in May of 2007 with still not signed to run at a school. I tried to stay somewhat close to home because I had a girlfriend I had been with through high school and didn't want to be far. By the time summer had started, I had got a call from the coach at Rend Lake College, one of the top Junior college schools in the nation, and was only an hour and a half from home, close enough to my girlfriend but far enough from my crazy hometown. I was to go there in august of 2007.
College days, I attended Rend Lake College for one year; it didn't quite pan out to be the experience I had in mind. The summer leading up to going to school I didn't train, I was dealing with girlfriend problems, which at my age was devastating, that I didn't run at all. I came to college under prepared and out of shape. I struggled to keep up in workouts and quickly got injured. I ended up with a double stress fracture in both my shins and got kicked off the team. I finished the semester and went back home.
I then attended the local community college for a year studying criminal justice and working at the local grocery store. I didn't run for the whole year I was home. For the entire time I was back and not running, I started to get into an angered state. I took up MMA fighting and was at the gym training everyday boxing and beating my body up with the intense training. I was doing very little running to get in cardio for MMA and quickly found the love for running again and quit the MMA thing very quickly. I didn't know what I was doing there in the first place, just the wrong time in my life. I knew I had eligibility to run still in college and quickly started training again and applying to schools that had a running program, cause the community college I was going to didn't have one at the time.
I then attended McKendree University, another close to home, but far enough away from the craziness of my hometown. I chose McKendree because the coach was a former running standout at the high school I ran for, and I had looked up to him throughout the years of my running career in high school. I figured coming from the same town as me and running similar times as me, he would understand me well, and it would be a good coach/athlete relationship, and it was. While attending McKendree, I had changed degrees from criminal justice to exercise science and coaching. I thought for sure this would be a great way to be more interested in school and learn more about the sport that I love, running. The classes were tough, but with the help of my running teammates, I got through it. At McKendree University, I was a 2-time national qualifier in cross country, and 3-time national qualifier in track and field. The 3rd time qualifier for the outdoor track was not a great one. I had qualified for the Naia national marathon championships at the track and field nationals’ championships, and by doing so, I qualified by running the A standard for the half marathon. I was excited because I knew I'd be able to run well at nationals in the marathon. After a night of celebrating with family and friends and being a little sore from the race, it was time for bed.
The next morning, I felt some tightness in my knee, and when I went to get up, I could barely walk. Long story short, I went to see a physical therapist, the pain would get better after months of no running but would quickly come back when I tried to run, I needed to find a fix for this and not be taking so much time off. My school Physical Therapist referred Dr. Rick Wright, an orthopedic doctor for the St. Louis blues and the St. Louis Cardinals. I knew I was in good hands. He found out that I had plica band syndrome, a band on the medial side of the knee that became so inflamed that It would cause shooting pain, and for it to get better, he would have to remove it, because according to him you didn't need it. It would make for a quick recovery, and overall, I’d come back to running even stronger after having it removed. I didn't get my eligibility back for that season but remained one more year of school where I became the assistant cross country and track coach to help with my schooling and help get my coaching career on the right path. In the years of coaching, I continued my running and helped many athletes to succeed at their collegiate goals, some making it to the national championships in cross country and track. I graduated in May of 2014 with my degree in exercise science and a coaching minor.
After college, I continued to work at numerous running stores, building my way up to better opportunities. I met many runners and helped develop great running communities at the running stores. I even met some trail runners that helped me find my way to the trails. I was racing on the roads and tracks post-collegiate and was just not enjoying it anymore. So, I reached out to the president of the St. Louis track club, who also was a race director for local trail races, and he kindly gave me a spot to run in his race, the Lewis and Clark trail half marathon. It was my first trail race, and after floating through the trails with not a care in the world about hitting splits or if I was going fast enough to win the race, I did just that. I won my first trail race and set the still-standing course record; I quickly fell in love with the trail running community. I continued to run trail races and worked my way up to ultra's, where I ended up meeting a friend, Chris Hahn, at a 50mile race where we both ran very well. He was training for Leadville 100 and thought I would be a great pacer for him. I'd never been to the Rocky Mountains or Leadville, so I was ready to go. The trip to Leadville opened my eyes to a whole new world. I quickly told everyone, when I get home, I'm packing my bags and moving out here.
I had dated a girl for three years, and I was coming home to propose. I was hoping she would want to move to Colorado. She quickly declined, but we came to an agreement that I would go to Colorado for two years to pursue my running dreams and come back. I had a going-away party and proposed to her, and then I was off to Colorado to start this crazy journey. I thought moving out there, she would quickly miss me and move out there, but for me, there was no coming back till I did what I said I was coming to Colorado to do, run professionally. Two years went by, and I couldn't leave because I hadn't accomplished what I had come to Colorado for, and we had grown apart, so we decided to split up.
When I first moved to Colorado, I struggled to stay in one place. I didn't know anyone, and it was expensive to live here. I tried hard to make things work in Silverthorne and told myself I would never give up on my dream of moving out here to run professionally and be a part of a supportive running community. As the years went by, I knew to stay out here, I'd have to make sacrifices, and work at places I didn't necessarily want just to make money to live here and train. I planned on living in Colorado and no going back, this will forever be my home. I continued to work at different running stores that each one paid a little more and striving to keep moving up to a place I knew I'd feel stable. The running industry is a hard place to make a living. My sole purpose for staying in it this long has been to educate runners that come in the store through my coaching knowledge, help them find the right running gear, and ultimately help build a running community and meet new people everywhere I go. I have reached the top-paying running store in the industry, and it has been gratifying working for them. Still, my real passion for coaching comes out with every customer I talk to and am now striving to make coaching and helping others my ultimate career. I had improved by moving up quickly in the running industry and meeting new people in the front range and growing the community and being a part of multiple running groups to help with my future success in coaching. I now have an amazing fiancé that supports my love for running, and we help each other to live the best lives we can, getting outdoors, running, biking, kayaking, and camping. Even though the Colorado times were a struggle, in the beginning, I made it through those hard times and found stability in life. I thank my fiancé for her love and support, road runner sports for the security of a job, and now rugged running for this fantastic opportunity to help coach some amazing people to their goals. I can't wait to meet you all and help in any way possible.