Had I never taken up long-distance running, I might never have known that my dad always dreamed of running a marathon.
I learned this after I finished my first marathon. My dad, of course, was there to cheer me on throughout the race. He and my mom had driven the marathon route the night before to scope out all the places where they could catch me running (I think I saw them at least 5 times over the course of the race).
My parents had always been fixtures at any sporting event in which I competed. Swim meets, track meets, cross country races, soccer games, softball games… if they weren’t coaching me, they were on the sidelines cheering me on.
My dad loves sports. This I always knew. He always played basketball, tennis, baseball and golf, and skied with us on family vacations.
Growing up, my main sport was swimming. My dad wasn’t a great swimmer, but because I loved it, he loved it. Even though he couldn’t give me pointers from his own experience, he researched and kept up with all the swimming news so he could help me improve.
And when I started running in high school, he took a big interest in that sport, too. But little did I know then that his enthusiasm for running had begun long before I ever joined the track team.
In my mind, my dad’s sports heroes included Ted Williams, Larry Bird and Jack Nicklaus.
I had never known that Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar and Tarzan Brown earned spots on his Greatest Sports Legends list, too.
Shortly after I ran my first marathon a little over two years ago, my dad told me he had always wanted to run one but never did, and that watching one of his children complete one brought him such pride. Through me, it was something of a dream realized for him.
My dad turned 63 years old last week. He walks, rides his road bike and golfs for exercise, but he had a hip replacement a few years ago, so running a marathon is probably off the table for him.
I know it frustrates him that he can’t be as active as he used to be, but I never really understood it until recently. Dealing with injuries that have forced me to take a bit of a break from running, I know how discouraging it is to not be able to do something I love.
So, like many things I do in life, I have been trying to approach this setback the way my dad does: I’m finding the joy .
I may be on the sidelines, but at least I have some great company there.