It only takes a few moments walking, or running, in the shoes of Clint “Flash” Santoro to feel motivated. Motivated to give 110 percent to any obstacle you face. Motivated to push yourself to new limits. Most importantly, motivated to be the best person you can possibly be.
“You know how teachers get into teaching because they want to make a difference in kids’ lives?” Santoro said. “I’m always trying to get kids, or adults, to get something to click.”
Santoro, 42, can be seen during the week helping customers at Sole Sports as the marketing director for the store’s Youth Sports Division. But on the side, his passion lies in coaching.
A running master who has competed across the country and around the world, Santoro blends his passion of running with lessons about life.
“The fact that I was a nobody gives me the ability to communicate with young people better than a coach who was a good athlete himself,” Santoro said. “I was the exact opposite.”
So, I can help instill in any athlete, at any age, the principles of hard work, how to go about it, how to set goals and how to go about achieving those goals.”
Santoro’s drive to help others stems from his early days in high school in the small town of Stafford Springs, Conn.
A letter from the cross-country coach at Stafford High School opened the door to what would eventually become his infatuation.
“I was the kid who was picked last for everything,” Santoro said. “I was an 85-pound freshman. Not an ounce of muscle on me and no coordination.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had never run a step in my life.”
But by the end of his first two semesters, earned “Freshman of the Year” honors from cross-country coach Steve Levinthal.
It was the peak he needed to begin his athletic journey.
“It was hard work, but I did it all by myself,” Santoro said. “I loved it because it was the one thing I had to define me.”
Santoro’s journey continued after high school at the University of Connecticut and Central Connecticut State University. But he never forgot the lessons he learned from his high school coach, Levinthal.
An altercation with Levinthal in high school gave Santoro what he calls “the greatest lesson an athlete can learn: how to be a decent human being.”
“There’s no one person (on a team) who’s all-important,” Santoro said. “You want to know why I still run? So I can teach kids how to be valuable, productive members of society as a result of all the lessons they learn through running.”
For Santoro, his lessons have proven to be successful both on and off the track.
Running has led him all over the world including France, New Zealand and Vancouver, B.C., the latter being his favorite as the site of his first international win, where he brought home the gold in the steeplechase competition just last year at age 41.
Not surprisingly, Santoro always seems to run the extra mile when he goes overseas.
“One of my bucket-list goals for myself (is) I want to be able to greet everybody of every culture in their target language,” Santoro said.
So far, he can get by in French, Spanish, Italian, German, even a little Swedish.
It’s all part of that go-getter mentality that Santoro brings to the sport of running, to his students and to his 14-year-old daughter as she launches into high school sports.
“I want (her) to be an athlete for life,” Santoro said. “Every semester in high school there’s a sport to be done, (when she’s) on a team. I told her to do her best with the skills you have. You don’t doubt yourself. You don’t have a bad attitude about it.
“Put yourself out there and if you’re not good you practice until you get better.”
It’s a mentality that goes back to his own high school days. It’s what molded that scrawny, 85-pound freshman in 1986 to the man known today as “Flash”—a fitting name for a runner that also was the name of his favorite superhero as a kid.
And it’s a mentality that continues to be passed along to the generations of runners he touches.
“When I won gold at ‘worlds,’ it was awesome. But it doesn’t compare to the lessons I’ve taught. That’s my gold medal.”
Santoro can be reached for lessons at www.flashsantorotrainingsystems.com.