He still hears him when he runs today. It’s the same voice and the same cadence. It comes with the same inspiration and the same support that meant so much to him as a teenager. Peter O’Sullivan was more than a high school math teacher and a track coach. He was Coach O. And in four years he taught him how to run and how to compete. He taught him about life and he taught him about himself.
Michael FitzPatrick grew up in Dracut, MA, a town north of Boston that borders the state of New Hampshire. Like many kids today, Michael grew up playing soccer. But really, he just loved the running. He ran up and down, forward and backwards but the soccer ball seemed to just get in the way and it wasn’t until he attended Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, MA, when his running career really began.
He was a freshman running cross-country for Coach O when he first realized that every stride has a purpose. Throughout his high school career Michael ran Varsity Indoor Track, Outdoor Track and Cross-Country. He specialized in the Distance Medley Relay, the Mile and the Two-Mile. He won the Coach’s Award as a junior and was Co-Captain of the Cross-Country team in his senior year.
Michael went to Ithaca College and as a freshmen he ran for the Varsity Cross-Country team and earned the Coach’s Award. More and more, he loved running. He loved the training and he loved training hard, pushing himself every day to run faster and to run harder. In his junior year he was heading into the NY State Meet ranked 17th in the Steeplechase event which is 3000 meters of running, hurdling and a water pit. The Steeplechase requires quick changes in speed, adapting to an approaching barrier, clearing it and resuming your race. It was that race that would challenge Michael’s training and endurance, and his ‘no days off’ training paid off, as he finished 7th overall in 10:00 minutes flat!
April 20, 2013 was a glorious spring day in Boston. It was Marathon Monday.
Watching from the finish line on Boylston St. was Michael’s friend and coworker, Krystle Campbell, a young 29 year-old from Medford, MA. At 2:49 pm, the second bomb exploded 12 seconds after the first, and fatally injured Krystle. Michael had lost his friend. There was grief and denial, anger and pain. There was something he needed to do and something he was going to do. He was going to run for her.
After writing and requesting an Invitational Entry to the BAA, he began his annual, heartfelt tribute to Krystle in 2014, running a determined and blistering 2:58:56 Boston Marathon! It was a Boston qualifier his first time out and each year since, he’s qualified for Boston. And each year since he runs for Krystle.
At a very young age, Michael knew he was a runner. He’s always known. It’s what he does and he’s what he’ll always do. His running and specifically running Boston, helps him build new and happy memories. It helps him find peace and work through emotional stress. It’s helped him find a clearer path in life, devoted now to helping others achieve their running and fitness goals.
Our inspiration can come from anywhere. It can come from a parent. It can come from a teacher. For athletes, many times it comes from a coach, someone who changes his or her life. For Michael it came from Coach O, who would treat the last runner on the freshmen team in the same way as the elite runners on varsity.
And decade’s later, Coach O’s whispered wisdom echoes longer and louder.
Athletes write their own story and Michael FitzPatrick’s not done writing his. There’s no doubt that there’ll be athletes who’ll remember his voice, his cadence, his support and most of all, his inspiration.
Looking for a great running coach or fitness trainer give Michael a shout:
Myfy77@gmail.com for run coaching.
Michael@movementsciencesma.com for personal training.