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Grabow runs beyond self-doubts to break records

Jimmy Grabow is what you would call a late bloomer.

In high school, the future Long Beach State track star did not possess any traces of roadrunner-like speed.

“My freshman year, the kid who had asthma on our team was beating me,” Grabow said. “I came in dead last in meets. I was like the slow, reject runt of the team. I was the 4-foot-6, 80 pound, goofy-looking, little half-Asian kid.”

Yet last week in Seattle’s Husky Invitational, Grabow ran the seventh fastest time in the world this year for the indoor 5,000-meter with a time of 13:44.04, an achievement that also broke the school record.

In high school, Grabow said he didn’t like the “school” part of school. “I really enjoyed high school, the atmosphere. [But] I didn’t like the academics side of school at all.”

Yet once he got to junior college and Long Beach State, he maintained a 4.0. Last spring, the track student-athlete graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in history, and was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa.

Grabow grew up in Running Springs, Calif., a small town in the San Bernardino Mountains.

He attended Rim of the World High School, joining the track team as a freshman without any prior experience or, interestingly enough, interest. For Grabow, joining the team in high school was more a social thing.

During his senior year, Grabow qualified for CIF.

Grabow credits Glen Mitchel, his high school coach, for inspiring him as a freshman to stay on the team and work harder.

“He motivated me to test myself,” said Grabow. But that wasn’t the only thing Mitchel was good at.

“I don’t know of many coaches that would have tolerated me as a runner because for one, I wasn’t that good,” said Grabow. “I was kind of a goofball, always mocking everybody and doing my own little thing.”

Instead of running, Grabow remembers going off into the mountains to play hide-and-go-seek or even rolling logs down hills.

After high school, Grabow was recruited to San Bernardino Valley College by coach Wes Ashford.

But even after improving throughout high school, Grabow said he was still lacking enough self-assurance to meet his potential.

“I had a problem when it came to running,” Grabow said. “I didn’t think I was very fast or very fit.

Ashford, however, could see beyond Grabow’s self-doubts. He began to ask him repeatedly, “When is Jimmy going to think Jimmy is good?”

“I didn’t know what he was talking about back then,” Grabow said. “But he was waiting for me to say, ‘Yeah, I am good.’ It totally helped me build my self-confidence, discipline, everything.”

After that, things got better for Grabow. Not only did he become a state champion in the 5,000-meter race, which helped him gain recognition, but his grades went up, too. Everything fell into place.

Long Beach State distance coach Matt Roe made a good impression on Grabow, and he decided to become a 49er.

Grabow’s first year at LBSU was a stepping stone. He continued to improve his 5,000-meter times in his senior year and ran a 14:01 – a 49-second improvement on his best back in San Bernardino.

After getting his bachelor’s in history in the spring of 2006, Grabow still had one year left of indoor eligibility. He decided to use it, and returned back to pursue a master’s degree in counseling with an emphasis in student development in higher education.

He hopes someday to be a counselor for other student-athletes. He also became a resident assistant in Parkside Commons.

But most notably, Grabow took off and ran faster than ever.

In addition to his 5,000-meter record in Seattle, Grabow made school history in January. He ran 8:02 in the indoor 3,000-meter, beating the previous school record.

Of Grabow’s hardworking attitude, Roe said, “[Grabow] has a massive work ethic. He is able to handle a tremendous amount of running volume…He will be the most improved runner in the field…among the elite Division I distance runners in the country.”

Grabow currently is training at a high level, running about 130 miles – the distance from Long Beach to Bakersfield – each week.

For the immediate future, Grabow, a vastly improved, more confident Grabow, is headed to the NCAA Championships.

“You stand on the line and you know you’re going to win,” Grabow said. “Even though you know you might not have a shot in hell, you still have to think you’re going to win.

“It gives you that confidence to push your body, to run through the pain, to try and chase down that person in front of you. That’s what it’s all about – pushing yourself to the limit, seeing how much you can really handle, seeing how much you can really endure. It’s not necessarily about the other people, because in running, you run against yourself.”

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