Many masters runners had big dreams back in the day.

Back in high school and college, we dreamed of breaking the finish tape in a big race -- the league championship, the NCAAs, even the Olympics. We dreamed of coming off the final turn to pick off runners one by one before surging into the lead, arms upraised to a single thunderous roar of flash-blinding white noise.

Danny Martinez is one of those masters runners. Danny was a podium contender in high school and college, and he won the 2004 national masters cross country championship. But for sheer joy, no victory could touch the one in Norwalk, Calif., this past May. On an unseasonably cold Friday night, Danny and I watched Danny Martinez, age 17, take the lead with two laps to go in the 3200m, then hold on to win the (confusingly named) Masters Meet, which pits Southern California's top high school runners against one another.

More From Runner's World
preview for HDM All Sections Playlist - Runners World US

"I'm much happier for him," says Danny the elder, when I ask him to compare young Danny's victory with memories of his own racing. "That's probably the way anybody would feel. I get more nervous for him, too, because there's nothing you can do. You just have to watch."

When we dreamed back in the day, few of us imagined that we were building a legacy for our children, that we were carving out a lifestyle they'd one day come to emulate.

"I just wanted them to be part of a team, something successful," says Danny of his two sons, Carlos and Danny. "All us masters guys always look back on the good teams we were on and how much fun that was -- just having them experience that."

Also at the Masters Meet was Ceci St. Geme, assistant coach at Corona del Mar High School. As Ceci Hopp, she won the 1980 national high school cross country championship, then followed that with the 1982 NCAA 3,000m title as a Stanford freshman.

"I had no athletic goals for my children," says Ceci, when I ask about her five daughters and one son. "But I hoped they were going to be active, or at least find a passion for something -- art, the cello, something. Body, mind, soul, gotta take care of all that."

All five daughters chose running, with son Bo preferring basketball. Older daughters Anne and Christie helped Corona del Mar place sixth at the 2005 and 2006 Nike Cross Nationals, and Anne was the 2005 California state champion in the 1600m. She ran 4:39.8 in her final high school 1600, eclipsing Mom's high school PR of 4:40.4 (mile conversion).

"It brought us closer," says Ceci, about coaching and running with her older daughters. "It really made for special teenage years."

Like Danny and Ceci, I just wanted my son, Sean, to find a passion, to be part of a team. At first, running didn't interest him. He wanted to be Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. But after hearing that track was great training for football, he decided to run sprints. And he was good, winning his team's Frosh-Soph sprinter award.

As a junior, Sean decided to try middle distance, asking me to train him once football ended. Eight weeks later, he'd lost 15 pounds of football bulk and ran his first 1600m, recording 4:35.09 at a local all-comers meet. In a triumph equal parts elation and relief, Sean realized he could run, and I celebrated having steered him to that moment.

Satisfied, I handed Sean to his high school coaches. Then died little by little over the coming weeks, and I suffered silently in the stands as Sean's conditioning faded and stride faltered, until finally he could barely break 5:00. Unaffected by my last-minute plea to guide Sean's training, his distance coach sent Sean back to the sprinters.

I'll never forget Sean's next meet, him not bothering to warm up for the 400, just lying on the infield until called to the blocks. And my sternly reprimanding him afterward, terrified that he'd given up, worried what that meant for his future, when really he was just a wounded young man, his confidence shattered, in need of reassurance. No failure in sport can match the heartbreak of failing our children when they need us.

But before all that, there was a Monday afternoon in nearby Lacy Park, a few weeks after football ended, Sean and I running 3-minute intervals in the pouring rain, all alone splashing through 6-inch puddles, laughing and whooping and breathing hard as we pushed our bodies to the edge, sharing in the joy of sharing our sport.

Nothing will ever be better than that stormy afternoon in the park -- and because Sean is playing college football, that memory will have to do. Nothing will ever be worse than reprimanding my son when I should have been embracing him.

And no dreams of personal running success come close to the dreams we have for our children, whether in sport, in the world, or in our quest for immortality, for passing the baton in the eternal relay of life.

Pete Magill holds two American age-group records and is the oldest American to break 15:00 for 5K, having run 14:45 a few months before his 50th birthday.