Waaaaay back when I was an elementary school soccer nerd and before I began running seriously, I can remember my Dad and I going for runs together. I can still picture us heading out as the setting Southwestern sun painted our neighborhood a blazing orange hue. We’d tackle the hills together, and I’d race him back down. I doubt we went very far, but I know I loved every second of it. Though my Dad never ran competitively, he’d tell me how he used to take off on impromptu five-mile runs through the snow in Chicago when he was in high school just for the heck of it. I’m sure it wasn’t his intention, but his passion rubbed off on me, and, well, I’ve pretty much been a runner ever since.
Then life kicked in. Between endless soccer tournaments, violin lessons, the arrival of my youngest brother when I was 10, having to deal with my then-insufferable Type A personality, El Paso’s scorching summers, a few extra lbs, stubbornly chronic knee pain, and God knows what else, my dad’s running shoes saw less and less of the roads over the years. And even though he never really expressed it, I’m sure he missed being able to just go for a run.
Around this time last year, his itch to run returned. Taking full advantage of the winter’s cooler temps, my Dad slowly began his build-up. When I was there for break, he could run-walk a five-mile route down the mountain and back. We even went for a 30-minute run together. It was the first time we’d run together in years, and I know I’ll never forget that day. (I actually just teared up thinking about it). Then a few months later in March when I was back at school, I video chatted with my family one night. My mum switched the camera to show my dad, and my jaw literally dropped. Not only did he look fit, but he looked fast. Absolutely incredible. He told me that he’d kept up with his running, and now could run every single step of an eight miler. Witnessing the product of his tenacity as he fought tooth and nail from square one to speedy quick was flat-out awe-inspiring. He even ran a 5-K at my old middle school in 31:36. Not bad for an “old dude.” (Just kidding, Dad!) I physically could not have been any prouder of him.
Come summer, the relentless heat and some yucky medical issues got in the way. Stupid two steps forward, one step back cliche. But when I returned to Texas for this winter break, to my surprise, there was my Dad, eagerly showing me his running log that he’s kept up for the past month. Since I don’t live at home anymore, things tend to slip under my radar on occasion, so I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see that he was right back at it again! And this time around, I can tell you he’s got a fire in his belly to keep up this running streak for good. He’s got his eye on a sub-30-minute 5-K (Ted Spiker, I’ve ordered him to read your blog!), and I secretly hope that he will run the Runner’s World Half-Marathon with me in October. I know for a fact that he can do it. Not an ounce of doubt in my mind at all.
To top it off, he even got to go for a run in the snow again. Mind you, this is a pretty rare occurrence in the desert, so thank you Mother Nature for the spot-on timing of that cold front! (That’s him pre- and post-run with the awesomely goofy grin).
Over the years, I’ve met and read about countless runners with moving and motivational stories. But I can tell you that my Dad’s takes the cake in my world. I’ve run so many tough workouts and races, but I know the effort and perseverance it took for my Dad to get where he is today trumps all of that handily. He’s taught me to never take my fitness for granted and be grateful for every run I have the ability to do. I can only hope that I can be such an incredible influence on my kids one day. And, since no one else in my family runs, that special bond just the two of us share is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. At the end of the day, all that matters is that my dad is a runner, and that’s pretty freakin’ cool. Love ya mucho Dad!
UPDATE: On Saturday, January 26, 2013, my Dad officially broke 30 minutes in a local 5-K race, running 29:41 and placing THIRD in his age group! To top it off, he toughed it out after having the flu just over a week ago! Totally badass. I haven’t been that nervous for a race in a while, and I wasn’t even running, but I audibly squealed and jumped up and down with excitement when I got his text saying he’d done it. AHH! I physically could not have been any prouder of him. When I spoke to him today, I could hear it in his voice that he was still basking in the relief of having accomplished his goal. He also said that he wants to focus on building his endurance so he can run the RW Half-Marathon in October! Sweetness! Do I sense a father/daughter race in our future?!? =) I sure hope so!
QUOTE OF THE POST: “I have voices inside me that tell me I’ll always feel like a misfit: a tank amid rockets, a redwood among twigs. They remind me I’m caught in a vicious cycle — needing to get faster to get smaller, and needing to get smaller to get faster….With every pound I drop and with every improvement I make, that internal dialogue does get drowned out by the support of others — my wife, my family, my friends, my readers. A pat on the back, a compliment from an unexpected place. And that’s what fuels me to keep pushing.” – Ted Spiker
Who inspires you to run?