As a freshman at DePauw University, Rick Weinheimer finished last in each cross-country and track meet of the season.
“That was unacceptable to me,” the Columbus North boys and girls cross country coach said. “I needed to get better, and I didn’t have any kind of offseason program. So, I ran every day during the summer. By the time school started, I was up to ten miles a day. My coach invited me to camp, but he said there might not be room for me on the team. Everybody else in camp slept on cots, while I slept on a piece of uneven foam rubber. But I had a chance to prove myself.”
The turning point in Weinheimer’s running career come on a hot August morning.
“Our coach challenged us to run the 13 miles from campus to Richard Lieber State Park, where we’d set up camp,” Weinheimer said. “I was so fired up for this run that I charged to the front of the pack, and I never looked up at my teammates. I never looked back because I was so focused on that run. But it was the dog days of August, and the heat was getting to me, and I realized that I couldn’t make it the whole way.
“So, at the 10-mile mark, I told Coach that I did all I could do. I boarded our team bus, and I was devastated,” he said. “I thought all my teammates were still running, but then I saw all of them on the bus. They had all stopped running earlier and I had run farther than anyone else on the team. Coach said he didn’t know I had that in me. For years, he’d tell people I was the most improved runner he ever coached.”
Weinheimer shares this life-altering motivational story and many others taken from his 40 years of teaching and coaching in his new book, “Move Your Chair: A Guide to Every Day Excellence.” The 59-year-old coach has guided North to five boys and one girls cross-country state titles.
His book is available for purchase on Amazon.com.
“I want to tell high school and college kids out there that they are gemstones that need to be polished,” Weinheimer said. “Kids today grow up in a negative world because of things like peer pressure and social media. They need to internalize the lessons in this book, so they can become positive, independent thinkers. A positive attitude is countercultural in today’s society and young people need to know that someone else believes in them.”
Weinheimer has dedicated his book to all his former players and students. He knows that his personal legacy is defined by the lessons he has taught others, which are now being passed down to the next generation. That is worth more to him than any individual honor.
“Since I’ve written this book, I’ve heard from a lot of former students in their 30s and 40s,” he said. “I’m helping to teach a new generation that excellence is something we have to do each day if we want to get good at something. In the book ‘Outliers,’ Malcom Gladwell says you have to work 10,000 hours at something to be gifted at it. But, that’s overwhelming. My book helps people make it a habit every day.”
One of Weinheimer’s former runners, Kelly Hardwick Braun, is amazed at the impact that the book is having on her 10-year-old daughter.
“She’s really taking the information in the book and running with it,” Braun said. “She’s applying what she’s learning in the book to her own life in school and sports. It is teaching her to become a more positive person, and I plan on using the techniques in this book to make sure she becomes a successful person. It’s teaching her how to overcome negative attitudes around her, and the book has motivated me to keep getting up to run at 4:45 because I know I will be a better person for doing that.”
Name: Rick Weinheimer
Occupation: English department chair and boys and girls cross-country coach at Columbus North