But last week, he said he lost motivation.
"Running didn't have a purpose," said LaFave, 36, of Sanford. "I could have cared less."
LaFave, a past runner of Bob Cole, the Meridian High School cross country and track coach that disappeared last week while searching for his daughter's dog, said he broke down after hearing the news last Wednesday.
A search for Cole is now in its eighth day. Search crews have covered more than three miles of the Tittabawassee River in Midland County's Edenville Township, using divers, air boats, helicopters and sonar technology. A ground search has given police officials evidence that Cole's body is in the river.
For LaFave, who is sponsored by Brooks, Hammer Nutrition and Runners Performance of Bay City and Saginaw, hanging up his running shoes became an option. In his personal running blog, he wrote that he was filled with mixed emotions.
"This situation just seems so unfair," LaFave wrote. "I had actually thought about hanging up the shoes, even as important as it has been to me."
But it was during a 10-mile run this past weekend that he felt his coach's presence.
"It was exactly what I needed," said LaFave. "Coach wouldn't want me to quit."
Now he's dedicating this year's running season to Cole. He wrote in his blog that he has never dropped out of a race in his career.
"...and the 2011 season is a race," LaFave wrote. "I had a great year running last year and that will be nothing compared to what I plan to do this year. Here is to you Coach Bob."
Going into high school, LaFave had his heart set on playing basketball. But Cole saw more potential in him.
"Maybe it was because I was 5'-3", 110-pounds and couldn't shoot," said LaFave.
Cole told him to come out for cross country so he could condition for the basketball season. LaFave said his coach asked guys from all different circles of the high school to join the team.
And in the beginning, it wasn't pretty.
"I looked for every way possible to get out of running," said LaFave.
But after training a summer with Cole and his teammates, which included weekend workouts typically followed by ice cream provided by Cole, LaFave said his 5K time dropped by more than 3 minutes. As a sophomore, LaFave decided he could have success in running and it was Cole's motivation that made him feel that way.
In his senior year, LaFave helped lead his team to its first appearance at the Michigan state cross country championship.
It was his junior year, however, that LaFave remembers most vividly. After failing to qualify for the state championship race, Cole asked LaFave and his athletes to compete in a half marathon in Williamston the next weekend. Little did LaFave know that a half marathon meant 13-miles of racing.
"The most I had ever done before that was 8 miles," he said. "It was the worst expeirence of my life, I was sick, I was so ticked.
"It was raining and sleeting, my feet were soaked, my skin was rubbed raw under my armpits and my chest; it was just miserable."
But after the race, Cole ran up to LaFave with a smile on his face.
"He asked me, 'Well, what did you think?'" said LaFave.
And LaFave thought to himself, "I need to do more work."
"I'm not sure if that was a lesson that coach was trying to make to me, that more work needed to be done," said LaFave, "but that's what I walked away with, and that's what I'm going to walk away with forever."
Article from the Bay City Times by Andrew Dodson on 2/16/2011