On the Run
Arden Park Resident Knows There’s More to Running Than Pounding Pavement
By Jessica Laskey
Scott Abbott readily admits that his favorite thing about running is when he’s done running.
“It’s such a physically demanding endeavor,” says Abbott, a championship runner, coach and executive director of the Sacramento Running Association, which operates the California International Marathon. “It’s really just a continual process of enduring pain. The fun begins after you’re done running. You get to evaluate the very unique feelings of either satisfaction or failure that only running can provide. The sport takes you to a very clear space where you encounter a binary challenge—only you know whether you cowered or towered. It’s uniquely satisfying to be able to engage in at least one thing that is so pure.”
Abbott’s philosophical approach to running first began when he was a student-athlete at Jesuit High School. He grew up in Arden Park, attending St. Michael’s and Jesuit, and returned to the area to raise his family—making his children fourth-generation residents. Abbott credits much of his personal development to Jesuit running coach Walt Lange.
“He truly is a maker of men,” Abbott says. “A student-athlete who persists for four years in his program—regardless of what level they achieve—accomplishes something more significant than any tangible award or record. They will have developed the understanding that personal success is achieved simply and patiently through showing up on a daily basis and effectively and diligently getting your work done. Such a simple message, but such a powerful tool to arm young adults with as they head out into the world where shortcuts and instant gratification are the siren song.”
Abbott has certainly taken Lange’s advice to heart during his sports-oriented career. After earning three state championships and All-American honors in high school, Abbott attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he ran track and field and cross-country, serving as team captain for two seasons for the Bruins and winning UCLA Student-Athlete of the Year in 1999. After graduation, he worked various jobs for the Los Angeles Lakers, PGA Champions Tour and United States Olympic Committee, and then moved into coaching—becoming the most successful distance-running coach in Sacramento State University history.
“I’ve always valued the relationship building that is inherent with coaching,” says Abbott, who currently coaches numerous local post-collegiate, professional and Olympic-level runners and teaches Sport Leadership at the University of San Francisco. “It isn’t really about teaching a sport or technical skills—it’s about creating space for people where they can be comfortable being themselves.”
As much as he loves the job, Abbott noticed that the collegiate coaching lifestyle was becoming a challenge as his family grew with his wife Katie, a fellow competitive runner he met in college and with whom he ran the Boston Marathon last year to celebrate their 40th birthdays. Since he’d already been serving on the board of SRA, he became a natural candidate for executive director—a position he’s held for the past five years.
“The SRA does so much for this community,” Abbott says. “Annually, they spend close to $2 million to run programs and events that make our city a better place to live, work and play. I’m thrilled to have a unicorn of a job.”
At this time of year, Abbott is busy overseeing the California International Marathon, SRA’s biggest event of the year. As one of the premier running events in the world—it’s the No. 1 qualifying marathon for the Boston Marathon and the Olympics, and raises $500,000 for charity annually—CIM is a source of civic pride for Abbott and a reminder of why he first fell in love with running.
“I’ve run all over the world and been part of some of our sport’s biggest and best championship events—many with thrilling results,” Abbott says. “But if I could relive one day in my life, it would be the very first race of my high school career. That was the day the fire for this sport first got ignited. It was where I realized this was my bag and these were my people. More than anything, the sport of running has given me deeply valuable, life-long friendships.”
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org