Once Upon a Time, there was a little girl.
This little girl became Scicurious. Her dad had a large role in getting her there. My Mom gave me charm, sparkle, and confidence. My dad gave me his sense of humor. And my dad gave me running.
As little girl, Sci has two main memories of her dad. The first is his hilarious, inspired readings of Alice in Wonderland, complete with all the voices. Nothing beats Dad’s rendition of the Mock Turtle’s Song. If you have NOT read the Mock Turtle’s Song, and have not heard it sung in a truly lugubrious voice, you have missed out.
The other memory was of my dad running. Which he did, and does, to this day. Every day. Four miles, more or less. I’m not sure when he started, though I think I might have been around 8 or 10. I know it was after he stopped smoking (when I was 5). Dad always ran for health reasons, his blood pressure has always been iffy.
Of course, all through childhood, Sci didn’t run. She was shaping up to be a total geek, with a room decorated in all things ocean, and a bed on which she spent hours reading. Of course, this meant that Sci didn’t get out much (except for the ballet lessons and walking the dog). I often scoffed mentally watching my Dad get up early and run. I mean, get up EARLY?! You’re kidding. And RUN?! Sounds like torture.
But all this changed, when Sci was around 15. It was the last year they made you take the Presidential Fitness Tests in high school, and one of those tests is to run a mile. Sci usually took a “Satisfactory” in those tests, walking slowly around the track with her friends. But for some reason, I wanted to try that day. And I tried! I tried for around 8.5 minutes and 0.75 miles, at the end of which I fell over gasping for air. I remember looking at myself in the mirror after that and feeling more like a loser than I have ever felt in my life.
And then, that weekend, I woke up from a sleepy fog, hearing my Dad go out for his run. And I made myself a resolution, that for that summer, I was going to learn to run. And I was going to run a mile.
And that summer, I did. I went out every day, to walk/run, with my walkman (yes, it was still the age of walkmen, if you don’t know what that is, damn kid, get of my lawn). It wasn’t always early (yikes, no), and usually long after my Dad had completely his 3 mile circuit of the park near our house, but I was out there most days. Things went really slowly, but I kind of liked that time by myself, listing to music, trotting along. The running parts were hell, of course, but the walking was nice. Still, I kept going, feeling the shame of being that girl who couldn’t run a mile.
And I ran a mile. In fact, by the end of the summer, I was running the loop of the park twice every day, 3 miles total, with a stop each time at the top of the ginormous hill to catch my breath. It wasn’t fast, usually it took me close to 45 minutes. But I could run a mile. I could run THREE. I was pretty damn proud.
Of course, once school started up again, running pretty much ended. But that next summer, I ran again. And the summer after that. I ran at my summer camp (we ran to the top of one of the local mountains once and then back down, cool!). I ran during my winter vacations. When I got to college, I told myself I would run more. Every day. In the back of my mind was my Dad. Out there every day, rain or shine, except when the snow or ice was just impossible. 100 degree heat, he was out there. 100% humidity, he was out there. I told myself one day, that would be me.
During college running increased, I got up to 6 miles a day, though very, VERY slowly. During the summer after my freshman year, I ran 12 miles, just to see if I could. I still didn’t like it, but I WANTED to like it. I wanted it to be part of who I was. I wanted to be a runner.
One summer during college, I didn’t run at all, for some reason it didn’t occur to me. I slouched around the house. I was miserable. I had no idea what was wrong with me, until my Dad and Mom shoved me out the door, and back out to the park. Running became more than something I had to do, it became something that lifted my spirits, something that made me feel better about myself. Dad was on to something.
But it was only in grad school that running became something that I couldn’t live without. Grad school is the boot camp of academia, you have to do something to relieve the pressure, and drinking isn’t cheap. Running is. I started racing. My first 5k time was 31:15. I told myself I could do better. Soon I started running 10k’s. When I moved up to half marathons, my Dad bought me an ipod to encourage me. Running is still not something I LOVE, or even like all the time. It’s something I need.
Whenever I’m home, I run with my Dad. It’s our time together. There’s not necessarily a lot of talking, but knowing you’re pounding pavement together is a communal experience. The first time I realized I could run further, and faster, than my Dad, I almost felt guilty. But I’m proud I’m fast, and I think he is, too.
Now I’m like my Dad. I’ve run in the pouring rain, I’ve run with snowflakes blinding my vision. I’ve run in humidity so bad you feel like you’re breathing soup. I’ve run in deserts, in cities, on beaches, in woods. I am a runner now. I can almost call myself an athlete. And for that, I can thank my Dad.
Happy Birthday, Dad. From your runner girl.