My dad was a runner.
He ran cross country in college and, at one point, was ranked 53rd in the nation. His coach wanted him to start training for the Olympics. But, for reasons he never really explained, Dad decided not to do it. Later on, he used to joke that, while in the Army, PT tests were pretty easy for him because his legs were so long, he could walk part of the required run and still make time.
At age 53, my dad passed away from glioblastoma, a rare and nasty form of brain cancer. I was 25. He never met my kids.
Fast forward to last year: my friend Sara texted me about the possibility of walking a 5k her company was hosting. Despite the fact I prefer to stay undefeated by not competing, I was ready to try this thing out. 5k is 3.1 miles and that’s a lot. Especially when you prefer to sit under a blanket and be on the computer all day (cough cough MY LIFE cough cough).
Some underutilized, often hushed part of my brain said, “Well, dang girl! If you’re going to walk a 5k race, you might as well run it!”
“Hahahahahaha!” said the Realist part of my brain. “You’re the person who, when running laps in gym class, would wait until the gym teacher turned her back and would walk to catch your breath. Run a 5k race? RUN A 5k RACE???”
And we all laughed and laughed and then ate some cheese.
I still really wanted to run, though. I don’t know why. Some kind of Dirty Thirties crises or something I guess. Anyway, I downloaded an app to my phone. I dragged The Hubs to the road with me. And, we started running. Run for one minute. Walk for two minutes. Run for one minute. Walk for two minutes.
And now, I’m a runner too.
I’m not, like, winning awards or anything obviously. I tend to pick races with free t-shirts and medals for everyone because positive reinforcement is key. I’ve run the Color Run, i’ve run for hard cider and I’ve run at Disney. Tomorrow I’ll be running a 5k–probably in the rain–at Kennywood Park outside of Pittsburgh.
I know my dad would be proud of me. I just wish he was here to see it.
It’s weird, because I really do enjoy running. I have long legs and, now, I’ve been focusing on fitness for over a year, so my legs are strong. On Memorial Day I did a fitness challenge in honor of a fallen Navy Seal and ran two miles in 25 minutes. I’ve never run that fast before! I know I’m not going to be out in the front with the little spindly cross country runners (with skinny legs like my dad!) and running a six minute mile or something, but running is my challenge. I battle myself. I’m not out there to compete with all the other runners–I’m out there running because I want to see if I can beat myself to the finish line. You can’t win every race. My dad lost his race to cancer. But he put up a hell of a fight.
Tomorrow–and again in July and in August and in October–I’ll be out there, running for my dad. I miss him. Somehow, I feel like running connects us in a way we never really shared when he was alive. I was 25 when he passed away and I didn’t start running until I was 33. But, I know he’d be proud of me. Even if I came in last, he’d give me a big smile and a thumbs up.
Tomorrow, I know he’ll be watching. And he’ll be proud of me.