On New Year's Eve, I received the following text message:" Thinking about starting back running again....think u could work me up a plan?" A smile slowly crept across my face, because the person making the request was none other than my dad.
Outside of my freshman high school cross country coach who stated at the awards banquet, "When he first showed up and was shaped like a bell, I didn't think he could be much of a runner", there is no one else who has affected my running as much as my father.
As a tween and young adult, my father was into cycling and running. Watching him, I was slowly drawn into both. Partly because it helped me to fight the battle of the bell that had accumulated around my midsection and as a way to spend time with my dad.
My first runs were promptly followed up with a call to him at work saying I had run 10 seconds faster than the day before or that I felt really strong. When I joined track in 7th grade, it was my dad who took me to get my first pair of Nike Air Max and boy did I feel fast even if my times were more pedestrian in nature. One Christmas, we even got matching non-breathable Gore-Tex suits from Road Runner Sports. When I ran my first marathon in Detroit and finished inside of old Tiger Stadium on first base, it was my dad who had driven me there, stopped and got me a garbage bag to help keep me dry because it was raining, and told me when he saw me finish, "You looked like crap."
Our runs were a chance to talk and a way for me to learn about the fine art of surging. I remember those runs where he would pick up the pace ever so slightly and then just when I would catch up again, surge ahead...breaking me down, but making me a stronger runner. Soon enough we started going to races and sometimes did two a weekend. One time we thought it would be a good idea to do a warm-up on the bike before a 5 miler and ended up getting into a pissing match on the bike that left our legs seizing up midway during the race.
But as the seasons passed we have traveled different roads. He has worked, tended to the horse farm, and gotten back into those manly pursuits, like hunting and fishing. I finally graduated from college, got married, began raising a family, and got serious about my running. There were no more runs on the road together.
I think that all might change. We talked after he got sick of trading text messages and today met up at Running Fit to get him fitted for shoes (Brooks Adreline GTS 9) and over to REI for some gear. He told me he was tired of sitting on the Couch of Doom and thinks it would be pretty cool if he, myself, and Little Dirt Dawg could all do and one day do a race together. I found him a program that starts with walking and then builds in some running, so that the transition is gentle and he doesn't get injured. His BHAG one day might be to run a marathon.
Of course I looked. He only needs a 4 hr 00 min marathon to make it to Boston. If we were able to run that together it would certainly be something special, but I look forward to just being able to run with him again.
So in true Dirt Dawg spirit, welcome back Father Dawg. Welcome Back.