Sports: Mark Bravo

 

Written by Nathan Winfrey in the September 2011 Issue

How you identify a glass of water, as half-empty or half-full, is said to determine whether you are a pessimist or an optimist. Someone who considers his life to be like a glass half-empty might feel overwhelmed or even depressed, focusing on what he doesn’t have, while someone who looks at life as a glass half-full might have an unrealistic appraisal of his predicament.

What would happen if someone looked at life like a glass three-fourths full? That’s the approach championed by runner, coach and author Mark Bravo. He and his wife, Leslie, live in Edmond. “Don’t compare yourself to others; it can be a losing game. In running, there’s always someone faster. If you can’t get over that, you can never be satisfied,” he says.

To put that approach into action, one must look at his own situation and, instead of looking at what’s missing, accept the chasm between what’s ideal and what’s actual. “No matter how easy or difficult our world is, I have to consider myself the luckiest guy in the world,” Bravo says. “It doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park or it’s easy all the time.”

Life demonstrated how uneasy it could be for Bravo four years ago when he was forced to have hip-replacement surgery. To a runner, especially one who is a coach, such a surgery can be devastating. “It shook my foundation,” he says. Two days after the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in 2007, after 30 years of running, Bravo went in for the surgery.

“I was rarely the fastest runner there,” Bravo says of his life before the surgery. “I was never trying for the Olympic Games or anything like that.” But still, people turned to him as a coach because they found him approachable. “People migrated to me and I appreciated that,” he says.

Bravo has been a color commentator for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon since the first one 11 years ago. “It just fit from day one,” he says. His family’s 88-year-old business was one block away from the Alfred P. Murrah building. He sold the family business in 1999 and became a personal trainer.

In coaching, Bravo chose to focus on personal growth instead of being solely concerned with hard driving and the clock. “The normal definition of ‘personal trainer’ never fit me. I found that what really drove me was to affect folks,” he says. “Running has formed my personality more than any single thing.”

Bravo enjoyed the camaraderie of races and running, and the accountability. “You meet folks for a long run, groups meet, and it becomes more a lifestyle than the literal miles,” he says.

The four tiers of Bravo’s viewpoint are “stick-to-it-iveness,” gratitude, a kinder and gentler approach and the glass three-fourths full view of life. These are the roots of having a positive outlook, staying on course, being the best you can be and giving back.

His book, “Momentum: 77 Observations Toward A Life Well Lived,” enumerates his philosophies. “The book has some legendary runners contributing to it, but the book is by no means a running book. It’s 90 percent non-running,” Bravo explains. “It gets to things that running helped teach me and observations from others.”

“There are three non-negotiables we all have, no matter how easy or tough our plight is – our efforts, integrity and compassion. If we approach those three words properly, I feel that most of the time we arrive at our potential, which is the subtitle of the book – a life truly well-lived.”

Following his hip replacement surgery, Bravo made the most he could of his situation. He started running again three months after the replacement and considers himself to be very fortunate. However, the surgery was not without lasting repercussions. He’s toned down his running, not caring as much how fast he is. “In the toning down, I don’t call it a compromise,” he says. “I call it maturity that I’ve chosen not to do any more marathons.”

Bravo says recalibrating his sights to conquer half-marathons can be just as gratifying as tackling the full marathons before the surgery. A marathon is 26.2 miles, and the longest race he’s ran since the surgery was 18 miles. “Success stories are when folks realize it’s not about what anyone else does or where you were 10 years ago,” Bravo explains. “It’s you reaching your potential.”

When Bravo coached for the “Train to End Stroke,” a program to fight heart disease and strokes, a man came in weighing 290 pounds. “He had let the last 15-20 years go by with a very sedentary lifestyle,” Bravo says. The man decided to participate in a half-marathon Bravo was coaching that was just a few months away. “In five months, he came down 55 pounds and walked a half-marathon at a really good pace,” he says. A week before the half-marathon, he and Bravo were walking and the man confided that he had once been in the Olympic trials in cross-country skiing. “He had gone from being an elite athlete to this. It can happen to any of us,” Bravo says, stressing that it doesn’t matter how someone gets into a bad situation or what the nature of it is, “All that matters is that if you deem it worth changing; start now.”

“Momentum: 77 Observations Toward A Life Well Lived” is available at select bookstores and at www.runbravo.com.

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