Attribution Theory/An Open Thank You Letter to Rogue
By: Austin “the Bus” Bussing
A little over a week has passed since the conclusion of the 2015 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships (hereafter abbreviated as USAs). I had the time of my life in Eugene, met some great people, learned a lot about myself, and ran a couple of good races as well- finishing 12th in my first ever US steeplechase final with a PR of 8:38. In the afterglow of my experience at USAs, I’ve done a lot of thinking about how I arrived at this point in my life- where I seem to be poised on the precipice of accomplishing goals that once existed only in my imagination. Through this introspection, I keep coming back to my feeling of immense gratitude towards the Rogue Running community. It is this community, this nurturing network of incredible individuals that, in many ways, made my experience at USAs possible- and to that community, I am eternally grateful.
My opportunity to compete at USAs was enabled most directly by my training and Steve Sisson’s coaching. However, I’m not so blind or ungrateful as to be completely unaware of the other forces that helped me ascend the running ladder. In order to train the way I do, it helps to have some form of financial stability- preferably in the form of a job with flexible hours that doesn’t crush my soul or require backbreaking physical labor. So, a little over a year ago when the renowned deadhead Chuck Duvall hired me (extremely reluctantly) to work retail at Rogue, one piece of the USAs 2015 foundation was put in place (although I didn’t fully know it yet).
One day a little over a month ago, I was working the floor at Rogue when a slightly flustered Jen Harney approached me. Apparently, a coach she had lined up for the upcoming Couch to 5k group in Cedar Park had backed out at the last second. This left all the people in the group, not to mention Jen, as training director, in a horrible position. Could I help, she wanted to know? I was, and still am, so thankful to have been approached with this opportunity. Not only did it make my financial situation a bit better it also allowed me to gain experience for my future coaching career- and, perhaps most importantly, it brought me into contact with a group of awesome, inspirational runners who were just beginning to fall in love with the sport.
Heading up to Cedar Park for my first day of the new coaching gig, my ‘99 Camry broke down. I called my good buddy Carl Stones to help bail me out of a situation in which I felt entirely helpless. We both looked at my smoking car and came to the studied conclusion that it was in bad shape. This was corroborated by the fact that it would not start despite both of our best efforts to jump it using Carl’s car. Eventually we got the thing towed, and Carl dropped me off at the Cedar Park Rogue for my first day coaching the Couch to 5k group.
I would later find out that my Camry was completely done. It would have cost at least 3 times the current value of the car to get it fixed, so I sold it for scrap. Upon learning I was carless, Travis Johnson from the Cedar Park Rogue kindly and selflessly let me borrow his bicycle, which to this day continues to allow me to get where I need to be. For my subsequent Couch to 5k sessions, I would take the RedLine Metro up to one of the north stations, where Jen would pick me up and take me to the store to coach.
Sometime during this whole Cedar Park saga, Jeff Knight (still with the mustache back then) told me he had spoken to a mother who was looking for a private coach for her high school son. Jeff, surely remembering my coaching aspirations (and all the times I had pestered him for gems of coaching wisdom), wanted to know if he could refer the mother/son to me. Needless to say, I was ecstatic, and more than willing to coach this kid. Once again, the Rogue community was coming through for me- making it possible for me to pay my rent, buy some food occasionally, and live my running dream.
Now, I didn’t write this blog to emphasize how pathetically dependent I am upon Rogue Running (and hopefully it hasn’t come across that way). I wrote this blog as a way to show gratitude, to say thanks to all of those who have helped me in so many ways, and to shed some light on the importance of the amazing support structure provided by the family that is Rogue Running.
My favorite professor in college was interested in something called attribution theory. This theory refers to how people contextualize and understand their successes and failures in life. If you were asked to explain how you got to your current station in life, what narrative would you tell? Would you focus on your own hard work, intelligence, drive, etc.? Would you talk about environmental, institutional or socioeconomic factors that allowed your success- or lead to your failure?
The truth is that a complex mix of internal and external factors drives each person’s successes or failures in life. But attribution theory isn’t really interested in nailing down the truth- slippery and elusive substance that it is. Attribution theorists, in general, are interested in people’s conceptions of the truth- the stories people tell themselves and others about the world and their place within it. My family at Rogue Running is clearly a huge part of my story.
As I stood on the starting line at Hayward Field, excruciatingly awaiting the blast of the starter’s pistol, I was keenly aware that I did not get there alone. While I made the conscious, hard choices to put myself in a position to get to that starting line, and while I worked my butt off every single day to make a US final, there’s not a shot in hell I could have done any of it alone. To the countless Rogues who have congratulated me on my performance: I hope I’ve adequately expressed my gratitude- and I hope you know it couldn’t have happened without you. I’m sorry 12th place is all I could bring you this year. I promise I will keep working hard at my craft in an attempt to keep climbing the ladder at the 2016 Olympic Trials.