Runner’s Grin… it lures you in.
My childhood is filled of memories of watching my dad return from his sunrise runs. Sure, he was red in the face, dripping sweat and reeked of B.O., but the sense of accomplishment that emanated from his face was captivating. I can still envision him entering the kitchen, flashing my sister and I a sweaty smile and half wave as he made his way to the sink. He tilted his head to steal a sip of water from the faucet as my mother simultaneously batted him in jest. He emerged from the sink with a devilish grin and teasingly threatened her by pinching the air and chomping his teeth. After delivering a swift peck to her cheek, he whistled his way to his bedroom to ready himself for a lengthy day of work.
Easy-going, Hawaiian shirt wearing dad.
Throughout grade school I was proud of my father’s running regime. As I entered high school, what once was pride in his athletic prowess turned to envy.
I wanted to feel strong -but I wasn’t. I wanted to appear happy and lighthearted to others -but I was an intense worry-wart who obsessed over her studies. I wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin -but I spent my time worrying I looked heavy in an outfit and wondering if my friends really liked me.
A friend and I (right) sophomore year of high school.
Following his morning runs, my dad was all of these things: strong, easy-going and self-assured. A large part of me wanted to experience returning from a sunrise run feeling confident and proud of what I had just accomplished. It wasn’t the actual sport of running that initially drew me in, rather it was the automatic smile that appears on a runner’s face following a workout. I ached to have my dad’s same involuntary grin plastered all over my face.
I knew that if I really I wanted these things then I needed to go running.
For years my dad offered to go running with me after school, and for years I declined. I made up various excuses: I’ll slow you down. It’s too hot out. I just ate. Not today, another time maybe.
Looking back, I didn’t go with him because I was scared I would fail. What if I stink at running and he never wants to go with me again? What if he blames me because he doesn’t get a good workout in? And the biggest fear: what if I can’t run- at all?
In the face of all of these fears, I desperately wanted to display the runner’s accomplished grin on my own face. So, one day in the fall of my junior year of high school I accepted one of my dad’s offers.
We walked down our long driveway in silence as we set out on our first run together.
To be continued…