Running to success
High school coaches Shaun and Theo Martin teach young runners how to succeed
By Candace Begody
WINDOW ROCK, Dec. 2, 2010
It's a given that as brothers they share their parents Allen, a coal miner, and Lisa Martin, a nurse, of LeChee, Ariz.
They also share a humble beginning of traditional teachings and one in particular that has given them a successful career in long-distance running.
"Our dad was very traditional," said Shaun, 29. "So we were up every morning running before the sun came up."
They wiped the sleep from their eyes and hit the trails and years later find themselves giving back to their communities as cross-country coaches.
Shaun has been head coach at Chinle High School since 2004. He celebrated his first state title with the Chinle boys' team Nov. 6 at the Arizona Division III state cross-country title in Cave Creek, Ariz.
Meanwhile Theo, 36, head coach at Page high School since 2006, celebrated the school's eighth state title with the girls' team.
This is the first year their teams competed against each another at the state meet due to the realignment of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
They used the same coaching philosophy they picked up in college and in professional careers as runners.
They grew up like any other rez kid helping grandma and grandpa with chores around the house and were given no choice when it came to running.
"We either got up and ran or had water dumped on us and kicked out the door," said Theo, the older brother by six years.
They won medals in every age group they ran in and continued to train under the direction of their father. Inevitably, a competitive side came out.
"We did well right away," said Theo. "And we grew a love for it really quick. It was natural and easy and we won our age groups all time."
They both had successful careers from high school to professional running.
Every year Theo ran high school cross country for Page, his team took home the state title - the first four titles ever for the school, in fact, and in 1999 the team was ranked No. 2 nationwide. He also claimed individual state honors as a sophomore, junior and senior and even ran to the finish line with his twin brother Tim to share the state title in 1999.
Shaun shared some of the same success six years later and was a state champion his junior and senior years and helped win three state team titles.
College running came next as both pursued and earned college degrees on running scholarships at Northern Arizona University.
They competed and trained with some of the world's best runners under coach Ron Mann, who was named the men's middle distance coach for Team USA for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They competed in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I and earned All-America honors.
Both ran professionally in road races, particularly marathons. Theo began training for the Olympic Trials for the 2000 Olympics. He had the sixth fastest time in the nation and holds the record for being the fastest Native American in the marathon with a time of 2:16.
Running with an injury, however, prevented him from finishing the race after 18 miles.
Shaun's professional highlights include setting a course record at the 150-mile ultra-marathon course from Grand Junction, Colo., to Moab, Utah, in 21 hours and 27 minutes.
Today, they find themselves coaching the same things at two different programs.
"There will always be a brotherhood there," said Shaun. "We are doing things very similar. We went through the same program at Page under one coach and then in college."
Though they admit there is always competitiveness, that's not the ultimate goal.
"When the gun fires, we are in battle, yes," said Theo. "When Shaun's yelling 'Beat that Page guy,' I'm yelling 'Beat that Chinle guy.'
"But when the race is over, we're back to being friends," he said, "because it's about getting kids to do the best they can and focus so they can get to the next level of running in college and go for a college education."
"There is no way you'll improve if you don't have self-discipline," said Shaun of his coaching philosophy. "You can experience the highs, the easy fun stuff, the hard painful stuff and go through a spectrum of emotions, but at the end of day, if you work through the rough spots and the lows in your lives, you know you can get through anything.
"Those are the kinds of tools you can use in real-world situations," he said. "The reward you get out of it depends on the work put in."
Both are physical education instructors in their respective schools. Shaun received his bachelor's degree in health promotion and Theo received his in exercise science.
Theo's twin brother Tim, a middle school science teacher, coaches in North Harrison, Ind.