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Dr. Joe I. Vigil—known simply as “Coach” to virtually everybody he has ever met—rose from poverty to become a towering figure in the running world. Coach has won 19 national championships and coached 425 All-Americans, 22 Olympians…and an army of “Vigilantes” who seek to emulate his unique blend of compassion, competitive spirit, and commitment to others.
In this long-overdue biography about America’s preeminent distance-running coach, award-winning author and Vigilante Pat Melgares shares Coach Vigil’s tale not just through the consummate storyteller’s own words but also through those of more than 50 family members, friends, former runners, and foes who have been shaped by his presence over a lifetime.
Chasing Excellence brought home the gold in the International Latino Book Awards in the Sports category. The award is presented starting at 22:04 in this video. It also won a national competition for books published independently in 2020, winning the Biography category in the Independent Book Publishers Association’s annual contest. And it was a finalist in the Colorado Book Awards in the biography category.
Coach Vigil is driven by a persistent desire to learn, a deep faith in people, and an unwavering loyalty to his hometown of Alamosa, Colorado. His life is an American dream—a must-read for anyone who loves an underdog or seeks to understand the timeless qualities that forge a leader. “Chasing Excellence” has been Coach Vigil’s mantra for decades, for himself and those he teaches. At age 90, he’s as relentless as ever in that quest.
Tad Banker –
An absolutely incredibly written book about the life of an amazing & inspirational man! I devoured this book after receiving it less than 24 hours ago. If anyone is an educator, coach, leader, or parent…this book is an inspiration!
A number of times while reading it last night and today it brought some emotional responses and some gems I never knew.
It definitely affirms the love, respect, admiration & inspiration I feel for Coach!
If I as a coach & educator, have or will be able to touch or inspire or lift up even one of my students or athletes like Coach has for me and hundreds or thousands of my brother and sister Vigilantes, then I will feel like I had a purpose and achieved success!
Pat Melgares you did an amazing job! Congratulations!!!
Thank you for writing this. Humble and kind don’t even begin to describe Coach. His knowledge, depth, honesty, and ethic and everything you describe in the book were so motivating back in the 80s. Gosh, and to have the stories he told so vividly right before me… It’s a great entire story of a very humble man on the way to success. Still very motivating to this day to see every team member succeed under the principles described within the book. Thank you Pat, Billie, and Coach for sharing.
Joe Gonzales –
It took all of a few hours for me to read this great book. Tomorrow I’m going to read it again. I’ve known this man for 20 years and this book captures him and his life to perfection. What a great man and what a great book. Stories I’ve heard from him (and some I never heard) all brought back years of memories of Coach and running. I hope this book sells out and you have to print some more because everyone needs to know this man and his great career. I’ve known Billy Mills a little longer and of course his Foreword was spot on. Both great men!!
Rob Harber –
I so enjoyed this book! Could not put it down. Thank you for writing an excellent tribute to an extraordinary man! Very well done!
Ryun Godfrey –
Coach Vigil’s story is so inspirational! If you are a teacher, a coach, an administrator . . . or anyone in a leadership role . . . read this book! If you are an athlete or anyone in pursuit of achieving excellence in your field . . . read this book! Thank you Pat Melgares! Very well done!
Mark Stadtlander –
If you are familiar with long distance running, Coach Vigil’s story is likely familiar to you. He’s an inspiring coach who brings out the best in those around him, both in his personal and professional life. This story tells an easy-to-read narrative of a leader who is arguably one of the preeminent coaches of our times.
Although it tells stories of running and competition, at its heart, this book isn’t about running; it’s the story of a man who sees the best in others and inspires them to reach deep within themselves to be the best they can be. Running aside, the qualities of inspirational leadership that are demonstrated in this book are invaluable.
Coach Hays –
A must read! I feel like I’m in the room with Coach telling the stories as I read. I have heard many of the stories before and can picture him telling the many others. This book is a must-have for anyone who has ever met Coach and a must-have for anyone who just wants to know more about the greatest distance coach the world has ever seen. Anyone who loves the sport of Track & Field will love this book. It’s perfectly written to get the true personality of Coach . . . a story teller. I just absolutely love it. Thank you for sharing it with us!
Paul Fenn (verified owner) –
Fantastic book chock full of wisdom and tips of how to bring out the best in not only distant runners but people in general. Thoroughly enjoyed it cover to cover!!