The Fourth of July always marks a very special anniversary for me. It marks the day in 2006 that I ran my first race, a simple one mile race. I was never a runner prior to that summer. I only became a runner because my dad nudged me and ran that one-mile race with me. Neither of us could have guessed what that simple one mile would do for me or our combined fitness. However, the biggest surprise of it all was what running did for our relationship.
I love telling people that my dad, Randy, is 55. He doesn’t look it or act like it. He celebrated his recent 55th birthday by running another half marathon. I was so proud of him. His running career wasn’t always solid as life got in the way and the interests of his family became time consuming. However, when he heard I was attempting to run up and down my street without stopping at the age of 24, he suddenly took a renewed interest in the sport. I asked him about that time.
“Running was nothing new to me but I loved the fact you were thirsting for every detail there was to know about it that you could get from me. Before long I knew it was just a matter of time before you would become so good at it, I would no longer be the mentor and our roles would be reversed.”
Maybe he was right, his encouragement turned me into a real runner, something I feel very lucky to share with him. I was curious if he ever thought he’d share running with one his kids.
“Yes, but I assumed it would be my oldest daughter who was more athletic as a child.”
It seemed much more fitting that my sister, the soccer player, would become running buddies with my dad. However, running became our thing, something we didn’t know we needed. My dad agreed.
“I remember thinking after we did our first one-mile race together in 2006, ‘I think I’ve finally found a way to connect with my youngest daughter.’ I had no idea it was right there in front of me the whole time – running!”
My first mile with my dad turned me into a marathoner. After a few marathons I set my sights on qualifying for Boston, a huge challenge for my novice feet. My dad believed in me, even when I didn’t. The fateful day that I earned by Boston Qualification, or my “BQ,” my dad was there, blocking the wind for me in the last painful miles as I raced the ticking clock. I recall this as my favorite running memory. My dad does, too.
Together, we’ve raced to the top of Pikes Peak, stood nervously at many starting lines, and exchanged waves as we passed one another in races. My dad has stood at the many finish lines waiting for me to come in, too. I can easily spot him, because he’s the one stepping outside the barricades to get a better view or the one running backwards down the course to come and find me. When I finished my first Boston Marathon, the one I fought so hard to qualify for, I fell into my dad’s arms and wept. If he hadn’t pushed me to run that one mile on July 4, 2006, hadn’t run by my side when I needed a partner, told me, “I believe in you,” or jumped into the qualifying race and blocked the wind, I would have remained a dreamer; someone who wanted to get off the couch, but was too scared.
Try a run with your kids, you’d be amazed what it might do.