I put on my running gear, pulled my hair back in a tight high pony and laced up with a big grin. This morning’s run would be my first run with my dad since I started racing and since I began reflecting on our past runs together. This run together was going to be different than previous ones together; this time I was ready to talk, listen and learn from my dad.
In my mind we were set to become an unstoppable “father-daughter running duo” (I can actually envision our superhero-inspired matching running outfits), who challenged each other and learned from each other during runs. Today, we would start by bearing our souls to each other during today’s run: What are our hopes and dreams? What are our fears and worries? Today’s run would be full of endless conversation, insightful moments and bonding—lots and lots of sappy bonding moments. I decided that it would simply be awesome. We might even end our run with exaggerated double high fives, a bear hug, and have to hold back a tear or two because of all the awesomeness. Okay, maybe I’m overdoing it a little, but you get the point.
Clearly, I had very realistic expectations for our first run together in over six months. No pressure, right?
The run was completely different from what I had envisioned.
As we walked up to the imaginary starting line, I immediately knew something was going to be different on this run. My dad was quiet, seemed uneasy and was maybe even a little nervous. As I tapped the button on my Garmin to set us off on our run my dad surprised me by firmly stating…
Dad: Now we’re not going to break any land-speed records today.
Me: I know. I’m just looking for an easy 50 minute run.
Dad: I haven’t ran much over 35 in the past couple months, just bits here and there on the treadmill.
Me: It’s 15 extra. You can do it.
Dad: I know I can do it. (He opened his mouth as if to say something else, but he stopped himself. A couple seconds later, he added)…It just might hurt a bit.
I took a mental note of these comments but decided to not dwell on them. So, we ran. Side by side we tackled the first hill in silence. As we crested the top we simultaneously grunted to signify our shared pain. When the sun broke through the clouds to expose the crisp blue sky above, we exchanged a couple of words about the great weather. We ran in sync, but mostly in silence. Why wasn’t he talking? I was so ready to listen. So, listen I did.
I opened my eyes and ears to the world around me: the clouds that appeared to be painted onto the backdrop of the blue sky, the wind rustling the leaves on each tree, birds chirping, and other sounds of silence. With no music or talking to distract me, I realized that I was running naked for the first time in years. In the past I have actively avoided running sans iPod—I told myself that my music helps me find a good pace, stay in tune with my body and quiet my worrisome mind. The reality is that more often than not, I am afraid of where my thoughts will go if I don’t have the distraction of music. Am I truly happy as a SAHM? If I went back to work, what would I even do? With a supportive husband who works his butt off so I can raise our daughter, how dare I be unhappy at home! What do I need to do to feel fulfilled? Complete? Simply put, happy? These thoughts are endless and quite exhausting. No wonder I put on the tunes to drown them out. So there I was naked (music-less), exposed to my wandering thoughts and I felt completely… liberated! I spent the run feeling the warm sun on my face and listening to busy hum of nature. Nature is really loud by the way.
We ran in silence but we also ran in sync; it was beautiful. We let out grumbles of frustration during the hills and bouts of laughter as we did high knees through several flooded sections of the trail. It may not have been the sappy bonding run that I had imagined, but it was exactly what I needed. I needed a break from my boring running routine. I needed to try something new, scary and challenging. I needed silence to be forced upon me so that I could give myself 50 worry-free minutes.
I’d like to believe that my dad somehow knew that I needed this experience. Maybe it was another lesson that he was subtly trying to teach me. Maybe he was in pain and was having trouble keeping up with the pace. Or maybe he just wasn’t up for talking that day (men’s actions usually aren’t overly complex).
Maybe it wasn’t the run I wanted or even expected, but it was the run I needed. I will definitely be running naked again in the near future! Once again, thanks dad.
(oh yea, I forgot to mention that we did double high five at the finish!!)