Upper Canada College’s Macintosh Library hosted ultra-marathoner, author and CBC radio producer David Carroll, son of Old Boy Derek Luscombe Carroll ’53, on May 2.
Carroll has written two acclaimed books for teens: Ultra and Sight Unseen. Another book is pending. Carroll began his visit to UCC with an early morning run with some boys and coach David Borden and then visited an exercise science class.
Carroll began his presentation by stating that he never thought he’d be speaking to an exercise science class given his unathletic childhood, which was perhaps precipitated by the approach to athletics in education at the time. His self-concept in adolescence resulted in the self-appointed superhero moniker of “Unman” to reflect his unattractiveness, unathleticism and unintelligence. His superpower was the ability to “bore anyone with a glance.”
Carroll expanded on his lack of self-esteem in his school years that were rooted in his mistaken beliefs about his appearance and his intellectual capacity. He was delighted to be allowed to drop gym in Grade 9 and didn’t pursue any form of fitness until his thirties, when everything changed as he tried running.
From the start of Carroll’s presentation it was clear that the audience was in for an engaging, relatable story told by an energetic, articulate and kindly speaker. He spoke comfortably about the negative aspects of his adolescent experience as the foundation for the story of his notable athletic accomplishments and subsequent writing career.
Carroll focused his talk on the negative messages his brain sends him when competing, including perceptions about what it means to lose, and when it’s okay or even desirable to quit. He also shared how he responded physically when encouraged by others and recounted stories about the power of words bolstering his energy and capacity to endure.
When Carroll was a newer runner who wasn’t quite ready to accept his growing ability, and was flagging at the end of a race, a woman in the crowd shouted “Go you athlete!” Carroll looked around for “the athlete” until realizing it was him. He was amazed at the impact on his energy and he went on to complete the race.
Carroll was endearing in his willingness to be honest about what he found difficult and why goals and persistence were meaningful to him. He also shared that his book Ultra was rejected 49 times, but he persisted and diligently rewrote it pursuit of publication. His commitment to learning underscored all of what he conveyed to the group in the session.
Carroll’s fiction focuses on the adventure of endurance sports and what it means to fight negative voices and the perceived limits of physical capacity. His personal accounts of running 100-mile races through night and day through woods will remain with those who heard them.
Students and teachers are encouraged to read Carroll’s books and consider their own capacity to pursue their dreams, whatever form they may take.