Decker: ‘I gave all I had. What I kept is lost eternally’ | Sports
Paul McMullen, Olympic gold medalist, three-time national champion, father of three children, committed husband, immediate friend of everyone, “The Pride of Cadillac”, founder of a youth running club, a keenly active and committed person, died on Thursday skiing in Caberfae Peaks.
My friend from the Traverse City Trojan told me that the snow conditions are bad for skiing. Perhaps Paul was thinking of his beloved trainer, legendary Eastern Michigan University guru Bob Parks, who had passed away the day before. We can only speculate. Paul once wrote on Facebook: “The perception of risk is greater than reality.” Another former TC Trojan and seasoned skier had a skiing accident five weeks ago that nearly killed him.
Many of my high school friends ran at Eastern – trained, interacted, and became part of Paul’s story. His story was part of their story, and like his trainer, he was a LEGEND.
All you have to do is watch a video of him to see that his presence on the track was intimate. He was born to win. My dear friend, who almost died, told us in a group text: “Life is precious, stay strong! Love you all. “Paul knew this news. You could see it in the way he lived his life and the stories people have about him.
And people tell them. There are already articles, honors on Facebook, LetsRun.com about Paul’s selflessness, his love of being active and sharing that passion with everyone he could reach or who turned to him. These stories, in which Paul inspired others, showed how much his presence opened other people’s lives.
My friend Mike – a colleague from McMullen who ran with him at Eastern – wrote to me: “We were teammates at WWU for a couple of years. We were friendly but not close friends. Yet every time I saw him, it was like meeting a long-lost best friend. He grabbed my shoulders, looked me straight in the eye, told me it was good to see me, asked what was wrong with me, and actually listened to the answer. He was such a good and really friendly guy that it was hard to believe. But it was real. And he was so damn fast and hard! “
The only John Lober who coached me at Traverse City Central and against Paul at Cadillac shared this story: “I’ll never forget to be at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and to see Paul first at the finish line after a race. I was part of the Olympic staff and had asked to work near the finish line that day so I could see him up close. He saw me while he was still breathing heavily and said: “Coach Lober, what are you doing here?” My answer: “I came to see you!” A touching moment that warmed both of our hearts. “
I ran and ran and ran in high school and college. Over 20,000 miles. I won a few races but I wasn’t a Paul McMullen. I saw him race at the Edmonton World Championships in 2001, four years after he cut his toe in a lawnmower accident. It sped down Traverse City’s Front Street on the Golden Mile during the Cherry Festival and was electrifying. There was a brutal poetry to his running: big, wild, invincible, chiseled, a force out of context, those calf muscles that started just below his knees, as a friend said. It was impossible.
1997 on the indoor track at Bowen Fieldhouse in the WWU. Another race. The men’s mile with Paul and Eastern Michigan star Ben Reese. There’s a try in less than four minutes: the holy grail of athletics. You start. The crowd approaches on both sides. The power, grace and speed, the pressure and the energy, the swelling of the screams that appear on every lap, split as they carve into the corners and each instantly slide off, a spectacle of awe and beauty of human movement, a harmonization the muscles and the mind push for perfection and fame, a pure expression, a symphony of flesh and blood. Paul saw the essence of what we were born to be synthesized in this unique battle that he waged like an artist in supreme control over his craft.
Both Paul and Ben left four minutes. A great scream rose from the crowd. Paul went ahead, but he pulled Ben with him because he always did: he made us all better by being Paul. By, as he said, “not being burdened by fear”.
Now there is only the facts of the time and place to show up and to keep the line, to be dead serious, to do anything, but with intelligence, with an contained passion, an attunement to the situation as it unfolds , and um react like a master who knows. Each of us has something we are passionate about – a sport, a craft, a hobby, an ethic, or an ideal. We know who of us can do it best, who of us knows how to persevere, who of us is the ideal, but whoever one of us is, our connection to higher aesthetics.
For me this is Paul McMullen.
Follow @ Jamescook14 on Twitter.