NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Most people use the last couple of days of the year to think about resolutions for the next year, but Lipscomb volleyball coach Brandon Rosenthal used the time to complete a goal.
Back in August Rosenthal decided to run 500 miles with plans to complete the journey on Dec. 31. He finished one day early, but not a mile short, closing out his running log book with a six-mile trek.
His response to finally finishing was, “Thank God!”
“I was excited,” Rosenthal said. “My body is tired. I am just thankful to be done.
“The last week was a chore. I was checking off each day.”
There weren’t any bells, whistles, confetti or cheering crowds to mark the completion of his goal. But he did manage to take a selfie to commemorate the feat.
Rosenthal had prepared somewhat for the challenge without really knowing it. He estimates he ran 300 to 400 miles from January to August 1.
He wanted to weigh in at 205 pounds Dec. 31 (he was at 206 on Dec. 30). In discussing the weight loss goal with assistant coach Ann Armes back in the summer the two decided Rosenthal would need to increase his running distances each day.
“I knew I was going to have to run a lot of miles each month to reach the goal and the first time around I actually did the math wrong,” Rosenthal said. “Initially, I thought it was more attainable than I thought.
“A few days later I redid the math and the number I needed to reach each day went up so it was a little disheartening. But at that point I had already made the commitment.”
When determining his running schedule for December he also made a mathematical miscalculation. Thinking he was 30 miles ahead, he soon discovered that was not the case. When all of the calculations were in he discovered he had 155 miles to go.
“The second week of December I ran 55 miles,” Rosenthal said. “The third week was the (American Volleyball Coaches Association) Convention and the NCAA Final Four so I got to run about 20 miles. The week leading up to Christmas was another 50-mile week.
“It was tough,” Rosenthal said. “At that point it was about being competitive. At one stretch I ran 10, 11, 13 miles and then two more 10s all in a row.
“Six miles was my normal run. I had a route for six miles, eight miles and 10 miles. “
The routes all took him through the 12 South area and extended as far as Music Row and the Demonbreum Street.
“There were a couple of runs where I ran across the pedestrian bridge and round the LP Field and back,” Rosenthal said. “I had the chance to see a lot of the city.”
A tough, crazy goal
Rosenthal also had another goal. He did not tell any of his players of his goal, but many of them saw him as he made his almost daily runs around 8:30 a.m. Soon, they were asking him what it was all about.
All athletic teams work hard, but few handle the work load of the Lady Bisons volleyball team.
“I set out to make a goal to fully understand what our girls had to go through,” Rosenthal said. “As coaches we push and we push, but I wanted to see what it would be like if I too was to be held accountable.
“I hope they would respect the fact that I pushed myself just as hard as I push them. I don’t need any medals. I would hope there is some level of respect. We have always said when you say you are going to do something then you do it.”
Rosenthal took the approach of a mailman in dealing with his daily run schedule. Neither rain, cold, heat, ice nor snow stopped his efforts. But unlike a mailman Rosenthal had to deal with some additional challenges like travel to matches and recruiting trips.
“I put a tough goal out there,” Rosenthal said. “I knew if I was going to do it I was going to have to stay focused. A hundred miles a month doesn’t sound too bad, but 500 miles is pretty crazy to someone like me who doesn’t really like to run. We had the theme of `The Crazy Ones’ so I thought I would do something crazy.”
Book man, running man
There was another angle to Rosenthal’s plan. There were a number of books he wanted to read but he admitted that sitting down and relaxing with a good book proved to be too relaxing for him.
“I never have time to read and when I do I usually fall asleep two minutes and four-to-six pages into it,” Rosenthal said.
He decided that instead of listening to music during his daily runs he would listen to books.
“That's where I thought, `wait a second, what if I can read while I run, essentially killing two birds with one stone’,” Rosenthal said. “I listened a lot. I fell in love with listening to these books.
“The thirst for knowledge grew and grew. I would get excited about the next one. I was finishing a book every four days. There were times when I was finishing two books a week. Even if a book wasn’t good I would finish it.”
He completed 19 books, most of them dealing with inspiration, sports or business. His first choice, “Insanely Simple” by Ken Segall, and his last pick, “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel Brown had the biggest impacts on him.
“Insanely Simple probably had the biggest impact as it chronicles Steve Jobs and the Apple Corporation,” Rosenthal said. “It really gave me the feeling that we are doing something special at Lipscomb in volleyball. At Apple they had all these doubters. It really invigorated me.”
“Toughness” by Jay Bilas also was a standout. Rosenthal found “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis to be one of the tougher listens.
“It deals with high frequency training and I don’t have too much knowledge of it,” Rosenthal said. “I called Jim Maddux (former Lipscomb soccer player and coach who is now in finance) a few times to clarify some things.”
Disney U by Doug Lipp gave Rosenthal an understanding of how much goes into what is accomplished every day in the Disney companies.
“When we look at recruiting and campus visits I think we can take a lot about Disney’s attention to detail,” Rosenthal said.
“The Boys in the Boat” is about the 1936 Olympic crew team.
“I was really impressed with it,” Rosenthal said. “It is a real neat, true story. I had been in a crew boat a little bit in college and it was probably one of the hardest workouts I have ever done.
“To hear their workouts and the build-up towards the Olympics was amazing because I knew they were going through a lot.”
Rosenthal has participated in a couple of marathons and there might be another in his future.
“It has been 10-plus years since I have done it, but I have always said I might have another one in me,” Rosenthal said. “My best time is 4:15. I would like to do another one and break four hours.
“The times I have been running would allow that. In the longer runs I was about 8:15 or 8:20. In the six-mile course I averaged around 7:50.”
But as the New Year begins don’t be surprised to find Rosenthal with his feet propped up and watching a football game or two surrounded by a strong feeling of satisfaction. He has run his course.
“I know people might ask, who would really know if you ran 500 miles...I would,” Rosenthal said. “I gave my word to a group of girls that I am always asking to trust me. It was not just 500 miles...it was a commitment to them and this program.”