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A Romo Fan’s Lament

At first I felt alone. I was the only person going through this internal struggle. On one hand…The Cowboys are having one of their greatest seasons ever. On the other hand…Tony Romo isn’t leading the way.

However, I don’t feel like I’m alone with this struggle now. This year has been rough for the Romo faithful. Let me make it clear that I love Dak Prescott. He seems like the kind of guy you hope your sons grow up to be. But…over the years I’ve become a huge fan of #9 for several reasons that I will explain. But today, on my first ever 20 mile run, I had an epiphany that changed everything. Let me break it down.

There are two questions I’m frequently asked regarding marathon training. 1) Are you insane? That depends on whom you ask. 2) What do you think about running for that long? Everything. You are mentally replaying your life story in your head. Some of the memories are so great you forget you are running. Some of the memories are so horrible you forget you are running. Nothing is off limits. The brightest and darkest memories that were buried in the nether regions of your brain are popped in a VHS player for your entertainment…or agony.

I was running by an elementary school thinking about this weekend’s game and BAM…a replay of my youth starting playing. The year was 1993. The Dallas Cowboys were preparing to take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. A 4th grade John Tarrant couldn’t stand it. This was up there with the days leading up to Christmas. All I wanted to do was go home and put on my Dallas Cowboys Logo Athletic shark tooth cap and play Techmo Super Bowl to prepare.

I’m sitting in class reading a Goosebumps book when I hear excitement in the room. The type of excitement that is usually limited to a TV cart rolling in the room, or a stray dog on the playground. Both are excellent days.

My friend next to me said, “John, your mom is here”. On normal conditions…this is a horrifying day for a 4th grade boy. But instead of being my source of embarrassment…she was the hero of Mrs. Gray’s 4th grade class at J.L. Boren Elementary School. In her hands was a circular plastic box that was carrying a cookie cake with the simple words “Go Cowboys!” Our class had an impromptu Cowboys party. Missy Tarrant was the MVP (still is).

If you thought I was excited about the NFC Championship game…I was uncontrollable for the Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills. My Tourettes Syndrome was in rare form (more on that in an upcoming post). This was not just any Super Bowl. My aunt came over before the game with a huge supply of “Buffalo” wings and my whole family was living on every play. The whole spectacle was pure magic. The game kicked off at sunset at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Michael Jackson performed the halftime show. The Dallas Cowboys, with that star on their helmet, were larger than life figures as they won the most lopsided Super Bowl (at the time) in the history of the sport. My dad allowed me to stay up till 2:00 in the morning to watch post game specials of my heroes celebrating. I had always been a Cowboys fan…but at that moment I was one for life.

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Every child deserves the experience of the Dallas Cowboys in the early 90s. Three Super Bowls in four years got me from elementary school to high school. What a great time to be alive. Then things got ugly. Very ugly.

Once Troy Aikman retired the team that I grew up worshipping turned into a punch line. More agonizing than more players going to jail than Pro Bowls, was their quarterback situation. From the year Aikman retired (2000) to 2006…The Cowboys started 9 different quarterbacks. All of them equally awful…then a gift came down from football heaven. Antonio Ramiro Romo.

First and foremost I love a good story. I grew up on movies like the Natural where an underdog seemingly comes out of nowhere to achieve greatness. We all love these stories. The first time I saw Tony Romo was in a pre season game in 2003. I was watching the game in college when he entered in the 4th quarter. I called my dad and said are you watching this guy who isn’t going to make the team? He looks just like Zach (my brother)! We had a good laugh at the resemblance and that’s where my interest in him died…until 2006.

Romomania was in full force. I was in my first year of being a sports anchor for KLST (CBS station in beautiful San Angelo, TX) and for the first time since 1995 I had legit reasons to be excited about the Cowboys thanks to Romo. A bonus was with my job I got to share the experience with everyone watching me (based on ratings…not many). This guy who was undrafted, from Eastern Illinois University, was taking the league and country by storm. Add the fact that he looked like my brother…I became a huge fan.

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(above: my brother and Romo comparison)

Some of you are reading this saying Romo is overrated, a choke artist, stats only quarterback…I get it. I’ll save that argument for another day. But no one can deny (OK, some of you will) that he nearly single handedly made, and kept, the Cowboys relevant for the better part of decade. For that reason, amongst others, I wanted to see him #finishthefight and win a Super Bowl.

When he got injured this year I, like most fans, considered this season was lost. No way could a 4th round rookie fill in and keep this team above water until Romo returned. Boy, were we all wrong.

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Just like Romo, Dak has an amazing…if not better story. As I previously stated I love everything about the guy…but for the reasons stated I wanted to see Romo win a ring, shut up the haters, and retire on the Cowboys Mt. Rushmore of quarterbacks. Therefore, I have internally struggled this season…until today’s run.

Having that vision from my youth gave me the clarity I needed. My boys, Hank and Sam, deserve that experience. They aren’t going to get it with Romo. They will view Tony Romo and Troy Aikman in the same way my generation viewed Danny White and Roger Staubach. They will know they were good…but won’t want to have their posters in their room or buy their jerseys.

More than that I want them to become fans. I still to this day either watch games with my family or keep my phone on a charger next to me for the flood of text messages and phone calls coming in (even though no matter where I’ve lived my dad’s TV is always a solid 10 seconds ahead of me which has ruined many of big plays). I want my boys to wear their jerseys on game day and experience the thrills of victories and agonies of defeats with me. I want them to call me on Sundays when they are in college and talk about the game. I need Dak, Zeke, Dez, and the boys to deliver some Super Bowls over the next few years to ensure this will happen. The Cowboys are more than one player…it’s everything else the “star” stands for. In my case…family.

I find myself more excited than I have been for a game in a long time now. As for Romo…I hope he moves on to another team and finds success…as long as it doesn’t interfere with the Cowboys. Put me on the Dak Prescott bandwagon. As I said…I appreciate a good a story and I would have no problem having either of my boys look up to him.

So, my fellow Romo supporters…enjoy this weekend. Win or lose the Cowboys future looks bright and we need a new generation of Cowboys fans. I invite you to join me in my excitement.

#FinishThisFight

 

 

 

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“I’m done with running”

“I’m done with running.” These were the words I told my wife after I crossed the finish line of our fourth half-marathon. Two days later I sent her a text saying “Let’s run our first full marathon.”  Turns out this is a very common transition for runners. It’s a true addiction…but at least a healthy one for the most part. So, in 13 weeks I’m going to be running the Cowtown Marathon in Fort Worth, TX. Yee-haw. Whether I want to admit it or not…running has become a passion.

My other passion is public relations and storytelling. I’m the Director of Communications for a public school district in Texas and I absolutely love my job. 90 percent of the time while running for a PR (personal record) I’m thinking of PR (Public Relations). See what I did there?  Whether it’s content marketing, a feature video, or  an upcoming event…to succeed in public relations you constantly have to have the wheels spinning in your brain. Running has become my happy place to process ideas and strategies.

In this blog I’m going to take you through my training of running my first full marathon…and share PR thoughts that swirl in my head as I run. Sometimes, there might be a direct correlation…somedays it might be a “stretch”. That was horrible and I promise to do better.

Feel free to join the conversation on public relations or personal records!

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“It” Happens

The heavens opened up and trumpets blared. Angels sang out and gave you the most beautiful idea you have had in months. It will reach thousands, inspire your audience, and bring great recognition to your company. You can’t sleep at night at the pure thought of it…then it happens.

The “it” can be a number of things. An impromptu meeting that takes an entire afternoon, a crisis situation, or any number of issues we are all familiar with. Next thing you know the idea that would change the world (or your brand’s reputation) is put on the back burner… and it never happens.

Over the last two weeks I’ve had the best ideas for blog posts…then “it” happened. Shopping, Christmas, assembling toys, New Years, traveling…and then our washer and hot water heater both going out within days of each other. Next thing you know my writing was on the back burner and two weeks went by without a post.

The solution is simple yet for some reason complicated for us humans. If I tracked back the events that occurred after I had these amazing ideas…I had the time. Instead, I checked my emails and did other busy work while waiting for the “perfect” moment to put the project into motion. I chased my kids like a monster and decided to watch the end of a football game instead of writing the blog…you get the point. One of my favorite PR professionals from the world of sports is Jeramie McPeek (@Jeramie on Twitter). I had the privilege of hearing him speak at a conference this past year and he put it perfectly when he said “Don’t be afraid to take the shot.”

I love this quote. If you hold onto the ball for too long the defense (whatever “it” may be) will close in and force you to pass. What a waste of a beautiful opportunity.

All this to say my resolution for the new year is to take the shot. Perfect moments don’t exist…but amazing opportunities do. I’m tired of staring at Post It notes and journal entries of amazing ideas that never happened. I’m taking the shot.

As for running…I have completed two 18 mile runs and gearing up for a 20 miler in a couple of weeks. Less than 2 months away from race day!

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The Safe Zone

A marathon is more than running. It’s diet, determination, and strength training. Unfortunately, I have always hated lifting weights. I enjoy running and playing sports…but have always dreaded the weight room. I convinced myself at a young age that since I’m not naturally strong to avoid the weight room and save embarassment. Whenever I went to the gym I would walk around and observe the mystery weight machines and try to figure out what the guy in the picture was doing. I felt like an archeologist trying to decipher cave drawings. After walking around in unchartered waters I would retreat to familiar water. This was generally a cardio machine of some sort or the basketball court. The fear of embarrassing myself prevented me from achieving my fitness goals.

A year ago I started dealing with back issues…getting old is real. One of the recommendations from my doctor was to start implementing weight training and core strengthening. Fortunately, my wife is a fitness machine and Beachbody Coach. She recommended a DVD workout program where I could do all the lifting in our garage. I reluctantly agreed to give it a shot.

At first I hated it. Why am I doing something I’m horrible at when I could doing something I’m good at like running or playing my baseball video game? I’m very good at that!  Then, I did my first run after three weeks of daily lifting. I was shaving a complete minute off of my usual pace. Turns out I had only been using my legs when running. By strengthening my core and upper body my posture was better and allowed me to run significantly faster. The squats, lunges, and leg routines also contributed by making hills a lot more manageable. I’m not Heman…but I can honestly say that I now enjoy lifting weights.

The fear of failure is poisonous to our professional lives as well. Most of us stick to our same methods because it’s what we know. Each year I challenge myself to learn something I’ve always been afraid to do. This year it was using the DSLR on manual setting for all photography. I’ll hedge my bet by putting the camera in automatic to get a couple of shots I know will be “useable”. Then I flip that bad boy onto manual and go to work. I watch YouTube tutorials and chat with “real” photographers at events to try to improve. Most photographers have been very willing to show me some pointers and tips. Am I ready to start my own photography studio? No. But, I’m very comfortable being at an event and setting everything manually. The end result…my pictures are far better this year. A few of them I’m actually proud of. I would never have achieved this by staying in the safe zone.

Next thing I’m scared of? Running 18 miles on a forecasted warm and muggy Saturday morning.

 

 

The Buddy System

Maybe I’m not a romantic. Using a “date day” to run 16 miles would be considered a tragedy by most young parents (34 isn’t old is it?). Luckily, this marathon is a goal that my wife and I share together. So, we thought making the leap from 14 to 16 miles would be fun to complete/attempt as a team.

We started the run at 6:00 a.m. and it was freezing…literally. The temperature  was 29 degrees with a moderate wind making the wind chill in the low 20s and the first mile a challenge. It was complete darkness and we had the entire town to ourselves. You are told on your long runs that you should run at a pace where you can hold a conversation. So, that is exactly what we did. We didn’t talk the entire run. As a matter of fact we didn’t really talk much at all. But when we were cruising around the town square running into a sunrise that only God could paint on mile 7…it was nice to share it together (does this make me a romantic?). Around mile ten I started feeling the nagging pain I’ve been battling in my right knee. But, having Ashley running with me kept me pushing through. On a few occasions Ashley would get caught up in the music and start to run too fast. I was there to tell her to quit jamming to Britney and slow down. Together, we finished strong, hit our goal time, and experienced the milestone together.

 

The same buddy system that works in kindergarten so you don’t get lost at the zoo, is even more valuable in your professional career. We all have strengths and weaknesses. It’s taken me a long time to accept this. I can write creatively…but have trouble with grammar (go ahead and count the typos in this post). Luckily, my boss, Charlotte LaGrone, can spot a grammatical mistake a mile away. Seriously, she is a machine. Since I have acknowledged that I can’t perfectly diagram a sentence…I have her proof everything before we post it for the district. I’m good at video storytelling…but haven’t mastered operating a camera. Fortunately, I have an arsenal of friends who are willing to give me advice. I like to feel that I provide the same assistance to them on occasion. Allowing others to help you grow in your profession is always a strength and never a weakness. 

Find those people in your personal and professional life who support and challenge you to be the best version of yourself you can be.

JUST DO IT

Arguably, the most successful three words in the history of athletic PR. It’s easy to remember and speaks to its target audience.

Note: I wear Saucony running shoes so this is not an endorsement for Nike. I don’t want to mislead the 13 people who read this.

The 14 miles I ran on Sunday was the furthest I have ever run. I have completed half marathons…but after that I usually take a week (or month) off. There is no such rest when training for a full marathon. So, doing a three mile recovery run was a new experience. The first half mile my legs felt like absolute Jello (I don’t eat Jello. So again no endorsement). I negotiated with myself to make it through one mile. My pace was slow, my knees hurt, but when I made it to the one mile marker I started to feel normal. By trusting the science that went into my training plan I pushed through and my legs felt better because of it. The recovery run isn’t supposed to feel great…but you have to push through to get to the greater goal of completing a marathon.

I go through this on a weekly basis at my job. Instead of running it comes in the form of video storytelling. The most overwhelming feeling when editing a news gathering story (not scripted or pre produced) is having 15 minutes worth of interviews, 10 minutes worth of B-roll (video that illustrates) and finding out how to put it all together in a neatly wrapped 2 minute story. Somedays, it’s easy and the story writes itself. Other stories are challenging. I stare at the footage, scroll through interviews, and have no idea which direction the story should go. I take my mind off of it by doing other tasks such as checking email, clearing SD cards, file management, all in hopes I will have an epiphany. It seldom if ever works. The only way to complete the project is to grind it out. Pick up a pen and start scripting the voice over. Go find the perfect music. Put some interviews together and see what flows…JUST DO IT.

Once you get through that first half mile the story usually starts to come into focus. Next up…16 miles on Saturday.

Army Strong

Sometimes, motivation is found in the most unlikely of places. When I woke up this morning and looked at my phone I wasn’t exactly thrilled. My weather app informed me it was 42 degrees and lightly raining. Not ideal conditions for the longest run of my life. So I did what any determined runner would do…I took my sweet time to find the right clothes to wear in the elements. As I was spreading the peanut butter on my bread for my pre run meal I was craving something else. Motivation. Unfortunately, I wasn’t finding any. I forced myself out the door to simply get it over with.

As Bruno Mars started singing “24K Magic” in my earbuds, I started searching for some 14 mile magic. Little did I know the motivation I needed was at the end of my street. The Weatherford National Guard Armory is located in very close proximity to my house and they were having a training day. As I watched the men and women wearing their Army gear performing difficult drills I realized the simplicity of my goal. I’m not Army Strong…but I admire those who have served in any branch of our military. These brave men and women put their lives on the line in the most extreme of circumstances for our country. That makes running any distance at a steady pace seem petty.

Being a professional storyteller this experience served as another reminder. Sometimes, working in school PR, you have days where you search for the next big story. So, you do the usual steps of browsing through campus Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and school calendars looking for the perfect story. Instead of sitting around looking…go out and find it. Some of my best ideas for video commercials and feature stories have come from simply driving to a campus and observing. Maybe you see a crossing guard going the extra mile to assist a student. Maybe it’s a student carrying in a world-class project. Finding amazing stories in public schools is like finding a good dog that needs a home at the humane society…all you have to do is show up.

I finished my 14 mile run at my goal pace and even had energy to hang up our Christmas lights! Thanks to the members of the National Guard for giving me the motivation and reminder that I needed.

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