Celebrating 25 years in the USA
It has been 25 years since I landed in the United States of America on October 21, 1987. At the time it was my beautiful and unselfish parents and my six siblings. We came empty handed, but with the support of the Red Cross. The reason we traveled to San Diego was because my oldest sister was already living there with an uncle. It was a cultural and financial shock to say the least. Furthermore, besides my dad’s limited English, none of us spoke the language. We spent almost two years in Italy, so we could speak Italian. People were mesmerized to see black kids that could speak Italian but not English.
Little by little we learned English and adapted to our new environment. My parents were all about education. In fact, they made the older kids wake up at 4:30 am to learn the language. My dad was awake with us during these lessons. My parents’ main goal in moving to the United States was for better opportunity. If it was for safety and freedom, we had already found it in Italy. But my parents, much like many other recent immigrants or past immigrants, wanted a better life for themselves and more importantly a better future for their kids.
25 years later, my siblings and I have accomplished a lot. It has not been easy, but through perseverance, we have made it. Thanks to our parents for showing us determination, commitment, and hard work from the very beginning. Thanks mom and dad for the lessons, such as “nothing is easy” and “nothing will be handed to you.” “Education is the key to life” was their montra.
During this quarter century, our family has grown. I have three additional siblings, which were born in the USA. I am happy to report that all of us have gone and graduated from college, with the exception of the youngest two (they are currently attending university).
While we are on the subject of family, I am happily married to Yordanos and we have three daughters under the age of six. In my book, “Run to Overcome,” I wrote about how my siblings and I did not have any contact with my dad for five years (for me that was from age 5 to 10). Since, I did not have that time with my dad, I try to embrace these priceless moments with my daughters. I try to read to my girls, go watch their soccer games, say a prayer before they go to bed and when I drop of them at school. Most importantly, my wife or I are there to tuck them into bed every night. It is hard enough when I travel for a few days or weeks, but a complete 5 years, that is unimaginable. However, my dad
and mom sacrificed those few years so we could be together for the rest of ourlives.
To celebrate my 25th anniversary in the USA, here are 25 of my favorite moments in my running career:
1. My family and I made it to the Land of Opportunity on October 21, 1987
2. In 1988, my God given talent was discovered when I ran a 5:20 mile at Roosevelt Jr. High during a Coach Dick Lord’s physical education class. Now, I am able to keep 4:54 minutes per mile pace for a marathon…non-stop.
3. In 1989, I was on the sideline cheering for my older brothers Fitsum and AK on Coach Ed Ramos’ San Diego High Cross Country team…I was shadowing them, hoping to one day join the team.
4. In 1990, I was happy to make my first Cross Country Team at San Diego High School.
5. I improved my mile time to 4:22 as a 9th grader.
6. I finished 3rd at the C.I.F. San Diego section and qualified for state meet.
7. In 1993, I won my first C.I.F. San Diego Section title in Cross Country.
8. In 1994, I graduated from San Diego High and got a full Scholarship to UCLA….I ended my high school career with three state titles in (Cross Country, 3200m and 1600m). I also finished 2nd at Foot Locker Cross Country Championships and won two National Scholastic Races.
9. As a Freshman at UCLA and in my first year working with Coach Bob Larsen, I finished 4th at the Pac-10 in the 1500m.
10. In 1996, I won my only Pac 10 cross-country title on the Stanford course.
11. In 1997, I won 4 NCAA titles in one year (indoor 5K, outdoor 5K/10K double
and Cross Country)
12. In 1998, after 11 years in the USA, I got my USA citizenship. I also became a
professional runner making $30k/ year for a few years.
13. In 1999, I accomplished my biggest academic goal, when I graduated from UCLA with a Bachelors degree in Communication Studies and Specialization in Business. Prior to my graduation from UCLA, I focused more on my academics than my running. I didn’t want to be seen as an athlete who never completed college. My parents brought us to the USA primarily to get an education, not to run.
14. After graduating from UCLA, my new goal was to become an Olympian and lead the resurgence in American distance running. In the year 2000, I was so happy to win the Olympic Trials in the 10k. I was off to Sydney, Australia for my first Olympic Team. The 10K had a preliminary round and I ran two personal bests, and finished 12th in the final even though I had the flu.
15. In 2001, I earned my first American Record in the 10K when I ran 27:13 just a day before my 26th birthday. After doing my first 3-week altitude training session, I improved by 40 seconds over my personal best from the Sydney Olympic Games.
16. In 2002, I ran my debut marathon in New York City. I finished in 9th place in 2:12:32. That year, I also won 4 USA National Championships. I also won my first car at the Bix 7 (7mi USA Championships).
17. In 2003, I ran my 2nd marathon in Chicago, with a conservative goal of running the Olympic A standard, which was then 2:12 but later changed to 2:15. I ran 2:10:03 and finished 9th. Had I known my time in NYC would have been sufficient for the A standard, I would have run more aggressively in Chicago.
18. In 2004, I met my future wife Yordanos Asgedom, and won a silver medal in the marathon at the Athens Olympics in the Marathon. It was the first Olympic marathon medal by an American man since Frank Shorter. It was a great honor. 70 days after the Olympics I ran a personal best at the ING New York City Marathon.
19. In 2005, I got married to Yordanos, the one that knows me best. I am lucky to have her in my life.
20. In 2006, our first child, Sara was born. I won the Gate River Run 3 days after the birth of Sara. I ran my first Boston Marathon and finished 3rd.
21. In 2007, I ran my only sub 28:00 for 10k on the roads (27:58). I was the fittest I had ever been. Unfortunately during the Olympic Trials, I lost my good friend Ryan Shay and failed to make my 3rd Olympic team.
22. In 2008, our second daughter, Fiyori was born. In the last 10 years, this is the only year I did not compete in a marathon. After suffering a stress fracture in my pelvis during the Marathon Olympic Trials, 2008 was devoted to rehabbing from injury. I thought about retiring, but ultimately decided I had more to accomplish.
23. In 2009, my dream came true when I won the ING New York City Marathon. Since I did not qualify for Beijing Olympics in 2008, I set a new goal. Win New York City Marathon to prove people my career was not over. It gave me great pride in getting a victory in the biggest marathon in the world and strongest field assembled. I became the first American in 28 years to win this race, and I had come so close so many times.
24. In 2010, I finished 5th in the Boston Marathon (with an injury) and 6th in the NYC Marathon. Victories and PRs are great, but consistency is also very important to me.
25. In 2011, I ran a personal best in New York City at 36 years old. Since we are already here…let’s make the list 26.2 long.
26.2 In 2012, I finished 4th at the Olympic Games in the marathon. I became the 2nd American ever to place 4th or better twice. I became the only to do so 8 years apart. In exactly 2 weeks, I will celebrate my 10th anniversary of running my first marathon by running the NYC Marathon. I hope all of you can tune in on November 4th at 9am EST on ESPN2.
Thanks to everyone who has been a part of this amazing journey with me and my family. You can read all of the details about our journey in my book “Run To Overcome,” and/or watch the following segment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crawnOmwhHo