Running started out as just a way to stay in shape, but it turned into a life-long passion for Stansbury Park resident Steve Allen.
The joy he found in running turned into a network of support through coaching, friends and his family.
Allen, 47, excelled at soccer growing up. He became one of only a few freshmen who made the varsity soccer team at Bingham High School. During his junior year, Allen’s best friend, Monte Marshall, invited him to run cross country during the fall; Marshall convinced Allen that it would help keep him get in shape for soccer season in the spring. Allen reluctantly joined and never looked back.
“I just felt like I had found my place,” he said.
In 1991, Bingham High School won the Cross Country State Championship. Allen had worked his way up to starting varsity and helped his team win. He was hooked.
“After we won state, Bingham became a powerhouse,” Allen said.
He quit soccer and ran track in the spring.
“It changed my life in many ways, and 30 years later, I’m still running and sharing the passion with others,” Allen said. “My senior year wasn’t as fairytale as my junior year. I had a lot more ups and downs.”
After his senior year, Allen ran a year at Southern Utah University.
“When I went to college it was a whole new fresh slate,” Allen said. “I put in a lot more miles and found out I could do a lot more than I thought.”
His coach, Eric Hule, shared a love of running that helped develop Allen’s drive. This is when Allen felt like he was good at running.
After running a year at SUU, Allen left to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After returning home, he began dating Kelly Rees, who was swimming at the University of Utah. SUU did not have a swim program, so Allen transferred to the U to run cross country and marry Rees.
“During college I learned how to prioritize things and identify what was most important to me,” Allen said.
At this time he was working for United Parcel Service from 2-8 a.m. to get through school. This gave him the opportunity to help coach his younger brothers who were running at Bingham High School. Allen found he had a niche with teenagers and connected easily with them. It also helped him to decide that his course in life would be in education.
After Allen graduated from college, he was hired at Grantsville High School.
“Kelly and I felt really good about it,” Allen said. “We were tired of the hustle and bustle of the Wasatch Front. We were still close to things, but Grantsville held a country-type open feeling.”
When Stansbury High School opened, Allen moved schools and started to build one of the best programs in the state. He often has many of the student athletes over at his home to eat, watch movies, and hang out with the Allen family.
Senior Joelle Spilker is often found at the Allen home.
“I’m pretty much there every weekend,” Spilker said. “Coach has taught me to be patient and dedicated. This team is a family.”
Allen also considers his runners to be family.
“The cool thing is my family is connected,” Allen said. “The running family is our family, too. Most of our life is spent with these kids and it’s nice for their parents to know that it is a safe place for them.”
Coach Allen was given the nickname “Coachie” when he taught at Grantsville and it has stuck with him. He encourages everyone to come out and try running with one of the best programs in the state.
“I don’t focus on the awards and obviously it’s not the pay that keeps me going, but what keeps me excited about coaching is really the time I spend with the kids,” Allen said. “I really feel like they are part of who I am and what I’m supposed to be is an extension of these kids’ parents — an extra set of eyes, hands, love, encouragement, and that kind of goes back to the connection I felt like I have with teenage kids. Maybe I can understand them a little better.”
Allen still finds time to run six times a week in the mornings before school. He runs with three other Tooele County runners he refers to as “The Boys” — Jed Winder, Conrad Johansen and Jimmy Thomas.
Every year, Allen has a goal of running a marathon that will qualify him for the famed Boston Marathon. Due to the cost it isn’t feasible for him to go every time, but this year in April he will travel with Winder, Johansen and their wives to experience Boston.
“Running is awesome but the conversations we have about life, friendships, and family are what really stand out to me,” Allen said.
He shares his daily running experiences with his high school team and explains to them that running is a life-time sport.
“I do a lot more adventure running now,” Allen said. “‘The Boys’ and I run three times a week together. It’s been one of my favorite things running with these guys.”
Together they’ve run Kings Peak, a 45-miler around the Tetons, a 50-miler across Zion National Park, and are planning many more trips. Last summer they tried to break the three-hour mark in the marathon, but didn’t quite make it. Allen, who has broken three hours before, used this experience to teach his runners.
“It’s not just about running. It’s also about life,” said Isaac Nelson, a current member of the Stansbury High Cross Country team. “He teaches a lot of different life lessons. If you want to be a better person and better athlete, he’s definitely the coach for you,”
Allen shares his experiences and teaches the kids that running mimics the ups and downs humans go through in life. He shares experiences with the kids that teach them how to overcome things that they’ll go through in their future.
“It’s hard for kids to see the big picture all the time, but that’s kind of what we do with helping them take the first step and then hopefully another step,” Allen said.
Through all his connections with running, it really boils down to one thing for Allen — the relationships with his runners, coaches and family.
“In the end, it’s the time I spend with the kids to see them grow and change and overcome,” Allen said. “There’s not quite a word or way to explain or express the feeling. It’s something you feel deep inside and it keeps me coming back.”