Jason Staples is a runner.
He’s not exactly Usain Bolt or Carl Lewis. Or even one of the first 10 guys to cross the finish line at a local 5K.
Nor does he look the part.
Watch him barrel down the Rail Trail, Coliseum parking lot or the dreaded Law School hill.
Get out the way!
Sturdy frame in tow, Staples resembles a menacing fullback more than a skinny runner.
But none of that matters.
Staples is a runner, and running is his sanctuary. It enables him to decompress and make sense of his whirlwind life as a Mountaineer. At West Virginia University, he’s a doctoral candidate studying educational leadership and a full-time training and development specialist at the Division of Human Resources.
“It’s a way for me to get away,” Staples said of his healthy hobby. “It’s my escape, not just physically but mentally. On most runs, I process the day and what’s going on. I think of family, friends and life situations.”
A Tennessee native with degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Asbury Theological Seminary, Staples came to WVU as a Chancellor Scholar in August 2006. The Chancellor’s Scholars program provides funding, mentoring and research opportunities for minority doctoral students.
Staples wasted no time adopting a Mountaineer mindset upon his arrival.
Perhaps where I’m from makes you nervous
Perhaps how I talk is really strange
Perhaps when I sit beside you in class
Perhaps you wish my seat would change
Perhaps your family and friends talk about me
Perhaps you already have a negative bias
Perhaps I’m like an unfamiliar meal
Perhaps you would never try it
Perhaps if we had a conversation
Perhaps we would both agree
Perhaps we are not so different
Perhaps friends we could be
Perhaps we could tear down divisive walls
Perhaps we know one thing is true
Perhaps we could bring people together
—By Jason Staples
“I became a Mountaineer as soon as I stepped on campus,” he said.
Staples’ carefree yet confident demeanor predates his days as a Mountaineer, and even a runner. Perhaps it was that attitude that thrust him into the wild, wonderful world of both.
A college football player in Tennessee, Staples tore his rotator cuff, an injury that put his pigskin days on the shelf.
Sitting on the couch watching TV as he recovered, Staples came across the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tenn. That was enough to lure him into running.
“I said to myself, ‘I’m going to run that race next year,’” Staples recalled. “I told everybody I could, and once you tell everybody you’re going to do something, you have to do it.
“That fueled my passion to run. After my football career was over, I needed an outlet. A marathon provided the perfect fit and I accepted that challenge.”
That sort of spontaneous decision-making gave birth to one of Staples’ motivational gems: “Sign up now, worry later.”
“Life is a journey and you only live it once,” Staples said. “So I say, ‘Sign up now and worry later.’”
No platform is off limits for Staples. He runs in 5Ks, 10Ks and marathons. He frequently zips around the Coliseum, Mountaineer Field, the Rec Center, Rail Trail, Coopers Rock ? pretty much anywhere. Of course, there’s the infamous Law School hill, which tests even the most hardened, chiseled athletes.
“The hill gets me or I get the hill,” Staples says of the daunting task. “I always think, ‘I’m going to take the hill this time.’”
Whether it takes him a second, an hour or a day, Staples will do it. This also applies to any race, which Staples views as bittersweet.
“At the end of the race, you see that finish line coming and you feel good you finished what you started,” he said. “It’s bittersweet. It’s an end of a chapter or journey, but a celebration for what you’ve done.”
He may not look like a runner. But when he crosses a finish line, it’s never over. As in life itself, it’s time to keep going.
By Jake Stump
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