Sunday, December 5, 2010

Boardwalks, and my relentless pursuit

I'm sitting on a shuttle heading back to the airport in virginia beach after 4 days of meetings, presentations and of course fellowship with a lot of like minded people. Yesterday I was asked to do a Q&A with the emerging elites, the guys who are right out of college and trying to make it as a pro athlete. During the talk I tried to convey my experience thus far, which many of you know was one of grief, pain, frustration, agony, and a bit of victory. Most of the questions were fairly easy to answer, regarding training, competing, agents, and nutrition but one question really made me look back and reminisce. I was asked have I ever thought about quitting, giving it all up. When I thought back to my first 2 years out of college, on my own, buried in debt, student loans and a constant fear of mail it nearly brought me to tears. I remember specifically in 08/09 when I was really on my own working for UPS loading planes in the freezing cold, breaking my back for $8/hr and having no idea how I was going to pay my credit card bill, phone, and rent and still try to eat and train. I would go home freezing cold, soaked to the bone, go into my room and cry, asking God if this really what I should be doing. I felt and still feel that this is God's plan for my life, so I felt I had reason to be mad for my struggle. A college in Michigan had told me they would give me 100 dollars travel and 500 dollars every time I jumped 18', I was ecstatic, they had meets every weekend for about 6 weeks! I thought I can jump 18ft easy, so I quit my job, taking away the only reliable income I had. I went to every one of those meets in michigan and jumped 17'9" every time! I went to these meets depending on that 600 dollars to pay my bills and not file bankruptcy at the age of 22. I never won that money, but God had a plan to teach me that no matter how low I got he always had me in his arms, and every month when I had no idea where the money would come from, He provided.

I still am in debt, I still have student loans, but I also have the most supportive family and friends, that I could ever dream of. This story is not unlike many other vaulters and athletes who are relentlessly pursuing their dream. Did I want to quit? HELL YES! But I remembered as a kid watching Michael Johnson, Maurice Green, Nick Hysong, and many others drape that American flag over their shoulders and run their victory lap. That is what keeps me going, that is what keeps me pushing, pulling, scraping, and fighting for the dream of wearing the USA jersey.

After all that, my drive is even stronger, and my dream is that much closer. Believe me its still not easy, it is easier, mostly because my wife believes in my dream as much as I do, and sacrifices so that I can continue my pursuit. (I love you honey, SO much!) One reason I tell you all this is so that you know you are more important than you know! Your support is so crucial! I literally would not be able to do this without you.

Coming home now I am eager to get back to training tomorrow. Eager to continue on this road which has been very bumpy at times but is starting to even out. I have learned to stop, just stop and trust in the Lord with all my heart, lean not on my own understanding, to follow Him in all my ways and He will direct my path.

Always Pursuing,


  1. Mark-

    On so many levels I am more and more proud of you... this blog says so much more about you and the man you are than even what is written here... I want to be like you when I grow up.

    Your bro

  2. God is an awesome God! The lows lend support to why the highs are so great.

    Coach Mike McDowell

  3. Just happened to pop on here today and man I'm glad I did. I want to say that my heart swells with love and pride for the gift you are... to me, our family and this nation (and beyond). The truest champion not only believes in himself and what he can accomplish through diligence and perseverance, but he sees a bigger picture that includes mankind. That is what you represent ...a true champion - one that I can support - not just because your my brother, but because your touching others lives by your example... of life, of love and of God.

    I welled up as I read the words because I know that man that has struggled and has wondered about giving up. I remember our conversations and the pain and frustration in your voice... You've accomplished so much and yet I know there is more to come... more victories, more pain and more perseverance. But in it all, Proverbs 3:5&6 rings through and God will be able to work in and through you (thanks dad for sharing your favorite verses with your boys/family).

    I'm grateful to experience life with you. Keep pursuing your goals and dreams Champ! You will reach them!


  4. So proud of all our family and certainly you, Mark. Keep trusting and God will make all the difference. Dad

  5. Mark I think this is one of only a few times I have visited your site and I just wanted to say how awesome it has been seeing your career progress over these last few years. I have seen first hand the burdens that come in the way of olympic dreams but you my friend have all the tools...maybe not the money, but it will come. Don't give up. Not many people will have the tools to run 10m/sec down a runway with a 5.20 11.0 in their hands but you have those tools you just need to learn how to use them. peace be with you.