What would Phil do?

Phil Barber 1955-2019

Not everyone sets out to be the greatest in the world. Some strive to be the greatest for the world without even realizing it. That man was Phil Barber and he was my first real friend in Knoxville. He was the type of person who would free up his time to talk to you, check in with you, and make sure you were doing alright. He went out of his way to make sure everyone knew that they mattered. He wanted everyone to feel welcomed in the Knoxville running community. He attended darn near every single run during the week and tried to talk to every single person he met. He was always so fascinated and inspired by everyone never realizing that he was the one inspiring others. He’d always go out of his way to help folks the moment he became aware of the need. He would literally give you the shirt off his back. One trait that always sticks out to me and used to get on my nerves was his advice on how to get better at running. He didn’t believe in going to gyms or gimmicks. He thought folks should simply run more. He would often message me saying “Are you running tonight? You need to run.” Or “You need to be doing consistent 10-12 mile long runs on weekends. We both should be doing that. You are fully capable of doing it.” Sure I was capable, but I didn’t want to run that much to be honest… I did anyway because…well…Phil. The point is that he wanted to see me get better. He wanted everyone to be better than they once were because that’s what he had done. Here’s a guy who lost everything during the recession, but rather than sit around and complain about it, he set out to improve himself mentally and physically. So he started to run… a lot. That led to 15 marathons in 12 months to be exact and that’s not even including the fun runs he was still running at during the week! The way he treated others is a message we should etch into our memories, so that we could be the Phils everyone needs in their lives: showing compassion and grace, calling friends just to tell them that we care about them, running even when our lives feel out of control, helping others, and playing our music so loud that those around us can’t help but remember us as we pass by. Phil, I love you so much and feel so honored to have had you as my friend.

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