Today the U.S. track and field community lost a special member.
This afternoon, Ian Dube, my track coach, and coach to many other track and field athletes over a 30-year career, lost his short and aggressive battle with pancreatic cancer. I just can’t believe I won’t hear his voice anymore, saying, “C’mon Julia! Hands, hands, hands! Run, run, RUN!” (You can hear him, in this training video above.)
I was honored to be invited to attend and speak at a USATF tribute to Ian last week. (I’ve shared my remarks below.) With much courage and effort, Ian attended the event, entering the room slowly, very worn and very frail, from his ongoing battle. Track coaches, athletes, educators, friends and colleagues gathered to speak about how Ian had touched their lives. It was obvious how well-loved he was and what a profound effect he had on the track and field community. We spoke, we laughed, we told jokes, and we honored him with thanks. We feared his time was short. Perhaps he did, too. And now, we cry.
I'll miss texting Ian my successes after each meet and seeing his “Well done, young lady, well done” -message back. I’ll miss his “don’t-back-down” -style of coaching. I’ll miss setting goals together, and I’ll miss what we might have accomplished. I’ll miss his encouragement, and his combination of grit and grace. I’ll miss the trust we had together -- to push me just enough to break me, and then in fact, bring me back, and make me better.
He was a dad, he was a husband, he was a great coach. His loss will leave a void in many places.
And, I say — “Well done, Ian. Well done.”
Remarks, USATF Georgia Retirement/Tribute to Ian Dube, October 21, 2016:
“Good evening. My name is Julia Curran-Villarreal. I'm a masters high jumper and have had the privilege of being coached by Ian Dube.
I met Ian at a USATF Level 1 coaching seminar in 2015. I was so impressed with Ian’s jumps class that I got up the nerve to approach him afterwards at the podium and ask, “Would you coach me?” He surprised me by saying, yes!
Now, why would someone coach a 56-year old masters athlete? I’d only started high jumping three years earlier when I was 53. Sure, I was having success, but coaching a masters athletes is not for the faint of heart. We come with years of baggage — emotional baggage and the baggage of injuries. Masters athletes challenge you; we question more. And, though I am still having a hard time accepting this — there’s probably no Olympic medal in my future for a coach to take credit for.
If you coach a masters athlete, you are the kind of coach who coaches for the love of the sport. And, Ian is that coach. He believes in helping people reach their full potential and their goals, no matter their age or ability. He loves track and field, and he believes in the sports' ability to change lives.
Ian sure changed mine. With his help, I won the W55 high jump in every major U.S. masters meet of 2016. I upped my personal best in high jump FIVE centimeters and earned two national championships. Due to his coaching, today I am ranked #1 in the USA and #3 in the world for W55 high jump.
During workouts — Ian makes me laugh, he even made me cry once, though I kept my sunglasses on so he couldn’t tell (I think). He’s tough. He’s patient. He’s kind and generous. He believes I can accomplish things, things that I doubt, things I can only dream of. But, he believes in me.
As I prepared for a major championship with Ian this past summer — on a 102-degree day, at the close of a 2-hour workout — did I mention he’s committed? I started talking about my worries about the big meet — this athlete jumped this, that one was going to be there, this one jumped better in the heat, that one's better on another surface. On and on I worried. “Wait, wait, Julia. Stop! ” Ian said putting his hand up. “Don’t worry about anybody else. Just worry about you. Control your OWN meet. Run your OWN race. Shoot for your OWN personal best -- don’t worry about anybody else.” And, he was right, it worked.
Well, Ian, you are running your own race and going for your own personal best. In fact, this room is filled with your personal bests — appreciative athletes like me.
Thank you again, Ian.
Julia Curran-Villarreal is a three-time USA W55 national masters high jump champion. After a 35-year break from her favorite high school sport of track & field, Julia returned to competition in 2013 at the age of 53. Follow her journey on @juliajumping on Instagram and @juliacurran on Twitter.