About

Richard Westbrook (left and behind of center with ball) during Trion High School Football

Richard Westbrook (to the left and slightly behind the center guy with ball) during Trion High School Football

1947.  That was the year of the Roswell, New Mexico UFO crash in which, supposedly, an injured or killed alien was taken by the military.  Also, in that year was the birth of Richard Westbrook in Trion, Georgia.  My birth was on January 26.  The Roswell stuff was in July.  No connection no matter what some people think.

            As most boys in Trion, I played organized football, basketball, and baseball starting at age six.  As I grew and advanced in school, I limited my athletics to football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and switched to track & field in the spring.  Eventually, basketball was dropped.  In high school, I decided that I wanted to coach and teach as a career.  My choice was to coach football.

            After being injured my senior year in football and missing some games, my focus was in track that year.  I was primarily a long jumper (broad jumper as it was called back then) at the state meet level.  My first real experience in distance running…and dismal it was…came the year before, my junior year.

            Coach McCain asked team members if anyone wanted to volunteer to run the two-mile in that day’s meet.  The team had an open spot, and he would like it filled.  Being a team guy, I volunteered.  After all, all I had to do was keep putting one foot in front of the other for eight laps.  No problem.

            The race started with me trying to hang on to the back of the pack from the beginning.  I was in oxygen debt coming out of the first turn.  Surely, they couldn’t keep up this pace.  But, they did.  I didn’t.  I was quickly shifting down into survival pace.  After the first mile, there was only one person behind me.  After one more lap, that person was in front of me.  I was last and getting laster (Yeah, I know it’s not a word, but it fits in this case.)

Trion High School Track State Champions 1965 (Richard Westbrook top left corner)

Trion High School Track State Champions 1965 (Richard Westbrook top left corner)

Coach McCain sent my best friend, Pete, to the backside of the track to tell me to drop out of the race.  I was going to hold up the track meet.  Stubbornly, I refused and kept going to keep my last place finish.  My time?  I have no idea.  I was too busy trying to breathe.  For the rest of the season, Pete would not let me forget about my two-mile effort.  He kept asking me if I was going to run the event in the upcoming meet.  Funny!

            I worked one year after high school in a carpet mill in Lafayette, Georgia to earn money for college.  I married my high school sweetheart, Janice Brewster, and we headed to Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee.  I was going to major in physical education and play football.

Jan (Brewster) Westbrook and Richard Westbrook

Jan (Brewster) Westbrook and Richard Westbrook

            I had four enjoyable undergraduate years at the Peay (Rhymes with pee.)  I spent two years getting my butt knocked off in football, but I was enjoying it and learning more in my pursuit to be a football coach.  But, things were beginning to change.

            I was learning more in my classes about physical fitness and conditioning.  I was observing the lifestyle of the team’s football coaches.  Things weren’t meshing like they should.  At the same time, the football coaches demanded that I gain weight to be heavier than my 205 pounds, up from my 186 pounds in high school.

            My increasing knowledge in physical fitness and conditioning enlightened me to the probability of playing and coaching football would not be conducive to the level of fitness that I thought I should have.  So, I made the decision to give up playing football.

            Previous to that decision, the football team’s summer conditioning demanded that we be able to run a mile under 7:30.  I discovered that I came to enjoy my workouts for that incoming mile.  I had spent time on the track during the summer working on my time.  When the season began, we lined up for the mile test.  I immediately thought back to my two-mile debacle in high school.  But, this time I had some fitness, and I found myself running away from the other football players to place first with about a half-lap lead.  This was a hint of the fitness for which I was searching.

            Research followed during that semester in which I found evidence leading to the conclusion that the best fitness seemed to be cardiovascular in nature.  Coincidentally, during this time, Dr. Ken Cooper of the USAF had published his conclusions of distance type running leading to optimal fitness.  Coopers book, Aerobics, quantified the amount of running needed for levels of fitness.

            I had continued my running by gradually running more because it made me feel good.  I read of Arthur Lydiard’s work with runners in New Zealand and his phenomenal success with distance running.  That, coupled with Cooper’s work, provided a base on which to build my running.  I found that the more I ran, the easier and more enjoyable it became.  At this time, I decided that I wanted to coach runners rather than football, which in the coaching hierarchy was a major step down the ladder.

            I found that I was running more mileage than our school’s cross-country team.  I had friends on the team, and they urged me to come and run with them.  I finally relented and joined them for some workouts. Eventually, I ran unattached in a home meet and placed after the team’s first runner.  Later, I tied the number one runner in a road race in Nashville.  This led me to join the team as a walk-on under the condition that I could train as I had been since it had progressed me to an even level with the number one runner.  But, the coach reneged on his decision and demanded that I train his way or not at all.  I chose “not at all.”  I continued with my own training.

            My training, as a graduate student, led me to enter the first marathon held in Tennessee.  I was running eighty to 100 miles per week.  The marathon was held in Percy Warner Park in Nashville in April, 1971.  It had about ten entries to cover the very hilly course.  I ran 3:26 to win my first marathon.

              Part of my graduate assistantship was to help our new track coach, Jim Jordan, in coaching the track team.  He assigned me the distance runners since he knew nothing about it.  I found myself coaching some of the guys I had been running with in training and some races.  I knew their background and wanted to make some changes.

            We started upping their mileage by having them run more total miles over the summer.  They continued the program with higher mileage through the fall.  Their cross-country season was their best up to that point, but they really improved to a much higher point in track season.  That season had them running major personal records from the mile to 10,000 meters.

            The early seventies was the time of the running boom.  There was a gradual increase in the number of road races in the South, and I was taking part in them.  It was normal to run a three-mile race; rest for thirty minutes, and, then, run the six-mile race.  I had my first teaching job in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida.  There I began coaching cross-country on the junior high and high school level.  Also, I started an age-group running club that led to many Junior Olympic runners on the national level.  Cross-country became a big success in the area with many runners earning scholarships to run in college.

            I ran the gamut of road races in the South from three-miles to marathons (of which there were very few.)  Eventually, the family, which now included children – Shane, Wendy, and Season moved to Georgia in Clayton County where I would coach at Forest Park High School.  I coached there one year, and we were able to win the county championship in cross-country after not winning a meet all season.

            I experienced my first ultra run during this time.  It was an experiment of sorts in which I was to run across the Florida panhandle from Florala, Alabama to the beach in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, which was a distance of 54 miles. I wanted to pursue my capacity for running long distances.  I focused on the idea of running the distance after training for an average of two miles per day for two months. Knowing that the training mileage was ridiculously low, I did it in order to find how much the mind played a part in completing such a run.  I completed the run with some hardships.  My crew was my father-in-law, Deck Brewster, who was sure that I was going to damage myself and urged me to stop after about 34 miles. My longest run up to that point had been the marathon.

            After the Forest Park year, I moved in the county to coach at Riverdale High School, a new school.  My children were running and with them, we formed the Tara Turtles, an age-group team of runners.  Another child, Casey, was added to the family to make it two boys along with the two girls.  I used high school runners to help with the younger runners, and they became part of the “Turtles.”  The club reached a high level of success in the state in road races, track, and cross-country.  A lot of those runners enabled Riverdale’s cross-country teams to consistently place in the top five in the state most years.  At one four-year period, Riverdale had a string of individual state track champions in the mile run, each one a different runner.

            My coaching led me to Lovejoy High School after eleven years at Riverdale.  The same pattern continued with my running.  The Lovejoy boy’s cross-country team won the state championship in 1991.

            The following year, in the summer of ’92, is when I ran the 1992 Runner’s World Trans America Footrace.  It was 64 days of running with no rest days.  It started in Huntington Beach, California and ended at Central Park in New York City.  There were thirteen finishers out of twenty-nine starters.  This was the first time such a race had been run since 1929.  I was crewed by Shelley Tyler who helped me tremendously, especially when I was injured with severe shin splints in my left leg.  David Warady won the race in which I placed fourth.  David was crewed by his wife, and they were from California.

            1996 had the Olympics in Atlanta.  I was fortunate enough to be chosen to work as a volunteer with the track & field.  I worked the equipment for the track & field sessions.  Each day was spent at the stadium setting up the venue to prepare it for each event.  I was able to witness outstanding performances first hand during these Games.

            Time passed, kids grew up, I moved from Lovejoy High School to Luella High School in Locust Grove, Georgia where I work at present.  During this time phase, I have run across the Grand Canyon; ran the Extra-Terrestrial Highway in Nevada; have completed a run across Georgia, north to south for my third run through the state.  To celebrate the birth of Casey’s (youngest son) daughter, Sera, I ran across Iowa.  She was born in Iowa City.  Season (youngest daughter) crewed me on that run which was a very enjoyable adventure.

Richard and Jan in the Florida Keys for the Keys 100 Ultamarathon

Richard and Jan in the Florida Keys for the Keys 100 Ultamarathon

   At this writing, I am on my 39th year of a running streak.  As I live and run, I have many ideas on running adventures and races.  My overall goal is to run today and run tomorrow.

                                                                                                                                                                      RW

—————————————————————————————————

“To be what he is, man must run.”

                                                                                                            Ken Doherty

 

If you know Richard Westbrook (Coach Westbrook) or was part of his cross country team or in his PE class and would like to say something about him, please leave a comment below. He would enjoy reading some words from his former students and athletes.

This blog will include articles written by Richard Westbrook about his races/adventures and about products for runners that he will test and give a review on. Also his wife, Jan Westbrook, and daughter, Season Westbrook, will have some articles on the blog. We look forward to hearing from the readers with comments and suggestions. Bear with us as the creation process is completed.

Comments
  1. Thank you Coach for always being the all seeing metronome, guiding us through life’s winding path. One of my fondest memories of running for you was actually a day that I could have sworn you jumped out of a tree to encourage me and Trevor Donaldson to suck it up and keep pushing. We we’re running along a route on the east side of 19/41, about 5 miles in to our run and the road was taking it’s toll on us. We looked at each other and thought, we need a break. We should walk it off. Who’s gonna know, after all, Trevor and I always trailed in the back of the pack. Not more than a couple hundred feet into our walk to replenish the energy, who do we hear? Coach! Trevor and I were so caught off guard, we both jumped out of our skin. All I remember was a voice coming from nowhere and then Coach pops out and tells us to “Keep pushing guys, you’re almost there.” And we did, we ran the rest of the route, mostly, and laughed our butts off at the thought of “Coach is everywhere…” I remember a lot of memories with Trevor and I wanted to share one with you and the fellow runners out there that might have spent time on the course with him.

    Thanks Coach – I’m still pushing and somewhere out there, I’m sure Trevor is too!

    ~ Brian J Kronenberg ~

    • Richard Westbrook says:

      Brian…Thanks for the comments. Good to hear from you. And, keep pushing (Hopefully, Trevor is too)…and remember to “beware of the chair.”

      Coach

  2. Kyle Horton says:

    Coach, I am so glad to find your website! I frequently think (fondly) about my days running for you. I have carried forth many lessons learned from you. Your adage which, paraphrased, said, “It is not enough to love winning; you must hate losing to be successful” has been particularly impactful for me. I now live in Greenville, SC, where I practice medicine and raise our 4 1/2 year old triplets. About 7 years ago I picked up road cycling, and I am now hooked. I ride 3-4 days per week (my schedule will not allow more) and have recently become “addicted” to riding up big mountains in SC and NC. I trust that you and your family continue to do well. Run like hell!

  3. David Warady says:

    The only time I would “Run Like Hell” was when I was trying to not let you catch me.

  4. Shelby Biddle says:

    Woohoo Westy…. I see you’ve got them Newtons on! haha

  5. Coach, You impacted my life in more ways than you can possibly know. You were, and still are, an inspiration in my life. I learned from you to always be tough. Guess that is why God decided to give me three tenacious boys. Boy I sure showed him 🙂
    All the memories, trips, speeding tickets in the school bus (oh you probably wanted to forget that part, huh) GUTS, numerous pool parties, midnight run race in your neighborhood, new hills, etc…..they are all some of the greatest memories I hold. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us. I still push the hill every time I run Coach!! Thanks for being an awesome mentor, teacher and Coach. I will be forever grateful…..

    Heather Jackson Spivey

  6. Kayla Millholland says:

    Coach! You are the best!

  7. Hi Coach,
    BTW, you were the only coach in my life that had the sole title of Coach. Everyone else was Coach So and So.
    You are an inspiration!
    Still doing the same stuff just like the last time I saw you at the Disney Invite. Coaching and Meet Directing.
    Laura Partin Fredrickson

  8. Cody Dorsey says:

    Coach,
    Well, honestly I hate running. I always have. But there was always something that brought me out the next day to practice. Such as the day after the milk run. Why in the hell did I come back out? I don’t know. The world will never know. But the one thing that I can tell you, I have learned more from you, than I ever have from any other coach, my parents, or any other relative.
    Now, I am heading into the second half of my second year of college and I haven’t run a race in 3 months, ATC 5 mile, in which I finished in 37:40. Why am I saying this? Well, I have my first marathon in a month. Oh well. I guess my marathon experience will be similar to your first 2 mile experience, but whatever, I’ll roll with it.
    It was an honor to be coached by you, and I will come back anytime to show the young guns how old college party men run.

    Cody

    • Richard Westbrook says:

      Cody…Good to hear from you.

      So, tell me…why would someone who hates running and always has hated it, will continue by racing a 5K and then will run a marathon in a month? Hmm…

      I hope your marathon experience will be better than my inaugural 2-mile way back when. Be sure and let me know how it goes.

      Thanks for the kind remarks. It’s always good to hear such feedback.

      My advice in your first marathon is to be patient no matter how good you feel. The marathon will start after the 20 mile mark.

      And, remember…we love most the thing we hate.

      Coach

  9. Hayley (Freeman) McCurdy says:

    This website is fantastic!
    Thanks, Coach, for being our guiding light and mentor! You are the first one who taught us how to run and gave us knowledge and the love of running, and for that, we are thankful. That will always be instilled in us, and every single one of your runners will remember you. You were an extremely important part of our young lives, shaping us and molding us into the people that we have become today. You not only taught us the love of running, you taught us discipline, courage, GUTS, hard work and team work, which I use in every aspect in my life today. And you put it there. I wonder where some of us, including me, would be today, had you not been the director of our lives in that short period of time. Many of us would not have even dreamed of going to college had it not been for running. And many of us would not have even been able to afford it had it not been for running. You gave us success and a future and we can’t thank you enough.

  10. Richard Ashe says:

    Coach, I remember when you were at Forest Park High School, I graduated in 1978. I did not know you were from Trion, my Mom & Dad were raised their, moving away in 1957. I use to enjoy visiting my family in Trion as a kid, spent many a day fishing on the river below the dam. I do recall FPSH teacher Sam Grogan was from Trion, he had recognized me, seeing me around the old mill town.

  11. Connie Nichols Caine says:

    Hey Coach Westbrook,
    You were an awesome coach in high school. I remember Maria Tobin encouraging me to join the Riverdale high school cross country team. I have many great memories of traveling to races and the adventures running took us. I haven’t ran since 1992 since getting diabetes. I had to stop running due to passing out and muscles giving out. I miss it. Thanks for all the great memories at Riverdale high school.

  12. Hey coach Westbrook,

    Let me just say thank you for being an inspiration to me. Because of YOU I was able to complete my 5k & because of you I’m working on 10k’s (& soon hopefully a marathon!) I still have your “born to run” book safe&sound. Hopefully I can visit you!

    Still at Luella? Let me know!

  13. Hey coach Westbrook,
    It’s MAY
    (You better remember me)

    Let me just say thank you for being an inspiration to me. Because of YOU I was able to complete my 5k & because of you I’m working on 10k’s (& soon hopefully a marathon!) I still have your “born to run” book safe&sound. Hopefully I can visit you!

    Still at Luella? Let me know!

  14. Hey Coach Westbrook,

    I just want to thank you for the 4 awesome years at Lovejoy (August 1999-May 2003). The greatest decision I made was to run track but the worst I made was not to run cross country. While I enjoyed football, running brought the best out of me and you made me a better person. I hope and pray nothing but the best for you!

  15. Janie Smith says:

    Hey, Coach…it’s your former semi-clueless assistant coach at Lovejoy 1995-1999, Janie Smith. i stumbled across this website while searching for the high school state champ winners for this year. Just thought I would let you know that I am still running…you trained me for my first marathon on Tybee Island in 1994 and I have completed 8 others since then…This year I crossed running a marathon through the Redwood Forest off my bucket list. Trying to decide which one I want to do next. Thanks for all you taught me about running…and life…it really stuck with me through the years. Hope you are doing well!

    • Hayley McCurdy says:

      Coach Smith! I remember you! Hayley (Freeman) McCurdy from 1996-2000 at Lovejoy. I hope you are doing well!! That’s a lot of marathons 😀 Are you on Facebook?

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