As I continue along on my journey to finish my very first marathon I find myself reflecting upon what, or rather who, inspires me to be a better runner: my father.
My father is a 5’7” pale, freckled, 160 lb redheaded running machine. Even though he is a short Irishman, he has always looked like a runner to me. He is lean, has toned arms and humongous quads (let’s just say that the man isn’t afraid of hills). When I think back to my childhood, I always recall waking up around 6:30 am to see him come home from his morning run in his freakishly short running shorts and a loose tank top with the arms cut off. Even though this was the accepted look of the 1980’s/1990’s runner, my dad has unfortunately failed to update his running wardrobe to match that of new millennium. His shorts still come to about 6 inches above his knee and he may or may not still wear the same 1986 NY Giants Superbowl Champs tank. Cue the awkward moment when he waves to other road runners.
The man is a creature of habit, and I love him for it. His consistent love for fitness has inspired me for as long as I can remember. An avid runner, my dad woke up at 4:45 am every morning to meet 5 or so of his friends at the local YMCA for their early bird 8 mile run. He did not cross-train, and he rarely lifted. The man simply loved the open road. Honestly, no one really knows what those men did every morning (coffee and donuts maybe?), however with the amount of cookies that my dad ate throughout each day, it’s safe to say that he was logging many miles.
Rain or shine, home or on vacation my dad pounded the pavement every morning before the rest of the world rolled out of bed. It didn’t matter if we were skiing in Vermont, sailing on a cruise ship, or celebrating Thanksgiving, the man refused to sacrifice his workout that made him feel empowered, strong, and happy. And really, why should he have had to? Why should you have to sacrifice an activity that makes you feel good about yourself and helps you become a better version of yourself?
I have always admired something about how my father carries himself; he exudes balance, happiness and a carefree attitude. He is a dedicated and motivated man and, above all, a great father. I can only hope to grow into the amazing runner and person that he is and always has been.
While my dad has been in hundreds of races, he doesn’t talk about them too often. It’s always seemed that running has been his love—not racing. Boy, was I misinformed! Recently I asked my dad if he remembered any of his PR times and if so, what they were. With zero hesitation he listed the following times (to the second):
|5K||17:49||5:44||Warner Lambert Classic, NJ|
|10K||36:21||5:51||Denville Run for the Roses, NJ|
|13.1||1:23:17||6:20||Hispanic Half Marathon in Central Park, NYC|
*He also ran the NYC marathon twice, the Marine Corps marathon in DC twice and the Newport RI marathon.
When I heard his 5k time I tried to do the math in my head to figure out his pace. Once I realized that it was under 6-minute splits, I shouted, “Holy crap! So you were like a ‘real’ runner??”
Until recently I never really realized that my dad was a super-fast, competitive runner. My dad assures me that when he was running 6-minute splits, the other guys were running 5-minute splits, but this awakened me to a whole new understanding of who my dad was and is. Since I have started off on this quest of road racing, we have discovered a whole new side to our friendship; we chat on the phone about our weekly runs, races and how to fuel properly. For so many reasons, my dad is my inspiration, my confidant and truly is one of my best friends. Actually, in a way, I think we inspire each other. My dad recently ran his first 5K in several years (after coming off a 6 month knee injury); naturally he ran it in 24:40 (under 8 minute splits).
The man ceases to amaze me and this is why he is my inspiration to be a better runner, mother and wife and most importantly to find the balance between all three. Now whenever I’m running I feel my dad next to me and realize I’m no longer running for myself, but running towards a much bigger picture.