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The Marathon Runner
BA in Physical Education with Teaching Certification, '09
“I ran neck and neck with Lance Armstrong in the Boston Marathon. Now I'm training to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. You don't know what you can do unless you try. And if you don't try, you'll never know!”
One minute he was told he would never be able to run again. The next, it seemed, he was neck and neck with Lance Armstrong at the Boston Marathon.
Persistence, determination, motivation—these were the driving forces that enabled Mike Cocquyt to overcome almost insurmountable odds. As a senior in high school, he had just completed his first 26 mile marathon when he shattered his kneecap. His doctors told him he would never be able to run the same way again. “They were right,” Mike says. “I didn't run the same—I ran better, farther and faster.”
His lifelong dream had been to run the Boston Marathon, so he wasn't going to let a little thing like a destroyed kneecap get in his way. “I was crushed when I couldn't run the marathon that year, but I decided to start training for the next one.” It was an almost impossible mission: he had only two months to train for the qualifying race. He had to shave a half hour off his previous marathon time. And if that weren't difficult enough, he was still recovering from his injury. Oh, and did we mention running for hours in Western New York's blizzards and zero-degree wind chills?
Mike says, “Despite multiple setbacks, I pulled it off.” He not only made the Boston Marathon's qualifying run, he did it eight minutes faster than he needed to. Later, when he ran the actual marathon, he says, “It was one of the proudest moments of my life.”
Since then, he has run the Boston Marathon twice, and one year, competed with Lance Armstrong for over half the race. He has reached a new personal best of 2 hours and fifty-seven minutes. He has completed triathlons and a 50 mile ultra-marathon. And within the next few years, he is going to Athens to run the original Olympic marathon route.
If it had all been a cakewalk, if he hadn't beaten the odds, Mike might not be where he is today — using what he’s learned to help others. During his time at SUNY Brockport, he has taught swimming to students with special needs and helped them compete in the Empire Games. He is working on his Teaching Certification in Adapted PE — teaching phys ed to the physically and developmentally disabled. This summer, he will intern as an athletic director at a Connecticut boarding school, and will start student teaching next year.
He also is interested in becoming a motivational speaker and has made presentations to the College on motivation and adventure challenge. His favorite quote is from the long-distance runner, Steve Prefontaine: “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” Although Mike has a high degree of self-motivation, he says he couldn't do his best without the support of friends, family and especially, his professors. “I am in contact with my professors every day. And every day, they drive me to do my best. Because of them, I have yet to fail,” Mike says.
Mike's success can be measured by his personal bests in running, by the many honors he has received, including the 2008's Physical Education Major of The Year, the Clark V. Whited Award and his induction into the PE National Honors Society, Phi Kappa Epsilon. It can be measured by his many interests and activities, and by his stellar academic record.
But it can also be measured in less tangible ways, such as the positive impact he has on the world around him. As a Resident Assistant (RA), Mike helps his fellow students stay motivated during times of struggle. “I have helped them through everything ranging from bad relationships to depression.” He loves riding his bike for exercise, but also as a way of helping the environment. Next fall, he is piloting a bike borrowing program to promote exercise and help reduce campus air pollution. Whether engaged in competition, study or play, Mike gives 200% to everything he does. “Every day I live as if it were my last,” he says. “And although I have setbacks, they only spur me on me to achieve even higher goals.”
His highest goal is also his wildest dream: to compete in the London Olympics in 2012. Mike says, “Rather than just dream about it, I have set goals and started training. I have 37 minutes to shave off my time in order to go to the qualifiers. I may never run for my country but I will know I tried my best to do so.”
To Mike, life is one long marathon where every day, we are blessed with the gift of potential. “All of us have it in us to be happy, healthy individuals if we just put in the effort,” he says. “I believe if we all pursued our gifts and talents rather than money, the world would be a much better place.” And if we all work hard, stay determined, and believe in ourselves and others, we may just achieve what Mike has — a life of grace and promise, where there is always another race to be run.