The best thing to do with a gift is to give it away. Okay, maybe not those prized new running shoes – but the running, at least. Share the running!
Jay Seago is a guy who shares the running. An outgoing regional director for Let Me Run, he didn’t even know he had a gift when he first picked up running in college — but it wasn’t long after that, that he started giving it away.
“The first race I ever did was in 1999. It was a 5k in Athens, Georgia, when I was 22,” says Jay. “I came in 3rd place so I was like, ‘I’m okay at this.’”
As a young soccer player, he’d had plenty of experience running around soccer fields. Then, in his first year of playing soccer for Virginia Tech, he discovered he did less running and more sitting — on the bench, that is, instead of playing. He left the team and picked up running a year later to stay in shape.
Before he knew it, he was a 25-year-old MBA in the workforce with a couple of 5k’s under his belt, when a co-worker suggested a half-marathon. So he decided to go for it. Why not? He ran a 1:31 and placed in his age group. Deciding he was still “okay at this,” he kept running.
And running. And running. Not training, mind you — just running, like Forrest Gump. Just running. His next half-marathon, the next year, without really training, was a 1:22. Competitors approached and asked him what he did to train, to drop so much time. He didn’t have anything to tell them. He just … ran.
Those competitors took him on his first 20-mile run, and told him he should do a marathon. Fast-forward through Phoenix, Marine Corps, and two Boston Marathons. Yup, still running.
But let’s back up now, to when Jay was getting his MBA. He would substitute teach at the local schools in Roanoke to pay bills, and help coach the distance runners on the school’s track team. Then he was head coach. Then he worked for a couple of years in a “cubicle life” after his MBA and realized…. He liked teaching and coaching better. Coaching flipped a switch — he had a gift. He wanted to give it away. He kept running and kept coaching.
“I hated working in a cubicle,” he says. “So I got a job teaching computer and wood shop.” A move to Charlotte in 2015 would set him up for the big life change that came next: the school he taught at didn’t have a track or cross country team, but it had Let Me Run, a running and character-building program for boys. He was off and running in a whole new coaching direction; a job opening as Let Me Run’s Regional Director for Charlotte made non-profit coaching his full-time work.
“There’s a whole curriculum and 14 lessons, each with a character-building theme. The character building is the most important part of Let Me Run,” says Jay. The program fit his passion for running and giving the gift of running to others, too. “The lessons are good for the kids, but also the adults.”
Learning to give his gift away opened a whole new world for Jay. He was studying for a new career as a realtor while working as Let Me Run’s Regional Director when COVID shut the world down. No realty classes, no Let Me Run. It was a tough transition, but he used the time to take his realtor classes online and start a new career. Even though he’s off and running in a new direction professionally, the giving back hasn’t stopped.
“With every transaction as a realtor, I give $500 to a non-profit,” says Jay. His donations rotate through 5 different groups, 4 of which are running related: Let Me Run, Girls On the Run, Running Works, and West Boulevard Ministries. (The fifth, Be There Dad, encourages men to play a bigger role in their children’s lives through volunteering.)
Sure, money is nice. But the real giving is time — and Jay still gives it away through running. He volunteers as a Sole Mate for Girls On the Run. He coaches 2 teams for Let Me Run. He volunteers for RunningWorks, which helps empower Charlotte’s homeless population by teaching life skills through running. And he took a deep dive into new territory with West Boulevard Ministries, leading a physical fitness and running group for boys along the high-poverty West Charlotte corridor. His sons accompany the boys as they train and compete in local 5k’s and even Around the Crown 10k as a team.
“We ran 800 yards, then walked 200, as a team,” he recounts. “We started and finished as a team.”
He also serves adult runners as Vice President of Charlotte Running Club, connecting local runners to groups that match their speed and endurance. Casting a wide net in Charlotte’s running community allows him to connect as a realtor, as he knows the schools and personality of the Queen City’s communities. And he can connect clients to a new home AND a local running club at the same time! And yes, that means everyone.
“If you run 100 feet, you’re a runner,” he says. “Don’t say you’re not a runner. Getting out and moving is really important, and anybody can improve!”
All of the volunteering has been the gift that keeps on giving.
“Coaching track and cross country are huge to me,” says Jay. “Thousands of athletes — It’s neat to see them become adults and go on to play college sports or become coaches, too.”
Not everyone has Jay’s gift or Jay’s energy. But Jay believes everyone can find their gift and give something — with the most valuable thing they can offer is time.
“It’s not about running, it’s about being there,” he affirms. “Lots of kids and adults need someone to ‘be there’ for them.”