To say that my father influenced my passion for fitness is an understatement. My childhood was colored by growing up in the subculture of distance running; my weeknights were spent playing in the long jump pit while Dad ran a track workout; my weekends were spent at road races; Summertime meant travel…..travel all over the US, but always to a race.
It was a fantastic way to grow up.
I was surrounded by people who loved running (somewhat obsessively, to be honest). They also loved seeing each other and competing with each other. It was a supportive community, and children were always encouraged to participate in the fun. From staffing aid stations during the race to running in the kid’s K races, I always felt like I was an important part of the action. A highlight of being in the “inner circle” was being allowed to hold the winner’s ribbon at the end of the 1984 Dallas White Rock Marathon, of which Dad was the director. Is there a better way to make kids want to be active than to make them feel involved and important?
As I grew up, my dad continued to shape my athletic interests. I ran cross-country and track through high school, and although I was never a top contender, he encouraged me to do my best. I began to understand that running with others *was* a lot of fun, and going to meets was good socializing. I continued to run through college, always getting in a run or two with Dad when I’d come home for a visit.
I ran my first marathon in graduate school. My most memorable marathon, however, was my third marathon: the 1999 Boston Marathon. Dad flew up from Dallas to run it with me. It was his 60th marathon, and it was his slowest ever. But we did it together, and it was a priceless experience despite my having a bad running day.
I continue to run with my dad when we see each other. Even at 62, he’s still faster than I am. But he’s also still nice enough to slow down and enjoy the run. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.