Today I ran 5 miles in 49:40.  I feel really, really good about that.  Warning: if you don’t like cheese, please stop reading.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about mental toughness.  One of the things I both love and hate about running is that it makes you stronger physically, but also mentally.  It’s a constant struggle to not quit.  I can do a class at the gym and sail through it without a second thought.  It’s hard, but it’s always changing and there are people shouting and watching you so I’d never even dream of bailing.  Running is just you.  The only person you’re accountable to is yourself.  Nobody really cares if you stop but you.  Nobody else will know that you set a personal record but you.

Today, around my fourth mile, I started feeling a little loopy.   I felt good, but my legs were starting to tire and my stomach was starting to cramp.  I knew I wanted to do 5 miles.  I couldn’t let myself quit–I just couldn’t.  So I started thinking about something I don’t often think about, and especially not when I’m running at the gym.

My dad died two weeks after I turned eight years old.  He was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia right after my seventh birthday, and spent the next year in and out (but mostly in) of various hospitals.  Basically, I don’t have very many memories of my father that don’t include him bald, weak, and clammy in a hospital bed.  The few memories of him that I do have I treasure–and without a doubt, the strongest memory I have of him is as a runner.

My dad worked the night shift at a hospital as an electrician.  He would come home from work early in the morning, change into running clothes, and go for a long run every day–5-10 miles, usually.  Everyone in the community knew him and would wave and say hello.  He would come home, panting, and I still remember hugging him and how he smelled, covered in sweat.  He read Runner’s World religiously, and would listen to sports news on his old-fashioned radio Walkman while he ran.  According to my mother, my first words were spoken as my dad walked in the door from a run–“Daddy, I’m so glad to see you!”  (Allegedly, I skipped babbling and single words and waited to speak until I was capable of full sentences.  I’m skeptical, but this is how my mom paints the picture.)

Anyway–when I hit that wall today–maybe it was because I hadn’t had enough water, maybe the blisters on my feet were making me crazy–I heard him, and I felt him with me.  I’m not one of those people that goes around wearing angel pins from Hallmark, but I just felt kind of like wherever he is–he wants me to be running.  He’s happy that I’m doing something he loved to do so much.  Maybe if he was still here, we’d go running together.

As proof, one of the few pictures I have of me and my dad together…and he’s in a Nike running shirt.  (Forgive the hair.  It was the early eighties and he had curls and never quite enough time for hair products.)

dad 001

Anyway, sorry for the kind of strange twist to this post.  I just felt today, more than ever, some kind of connection to him, like I was continuing his legacy in the way he’d want it done.  I know from now on, as the miles go by beneath my feet, he will be cheering me on, wherever he is.

3 Responses

  1. So, when you said cheese, I thought meant cheese. As in a dairy product. I think that whatever helps motivate you while you’re out there pounding out the miles is great – and the story about your dad is really nice. Nice run!!

  2. Thank you for this blog. I came upon it from the The Knot and it inspired me to run today when I was really really not wanting to.

  3. oh wow- what a great post!! sorry I have been mia- but i caught up and you have been a running machine!! i can only imagine your dad is insanely proud of you no matter if you had stopped at the 4 or kept pushing for 5-

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